The 8 Most Interesting Second-Quarter Fundraising Reports

Rep. Steve Scalise raked in some cash while running for House majority whip—and did some big spending too.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) (L) speaks to members of the media as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (R) listens after a leadership election at a House Republican Conference meeting June 19, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. House GOPs have picked Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the new House majority leader and Scalise as the new majority whip. 
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Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
July 17, 2014, 4:14 p.m.

Every three months, Wash­ing­ton gets flooded with fin­an­cial re­ports from con­gres­sion­al cam­paigns across the coun­try, each tout­ing a flurry of num­bers as signs of their well-be­ing—the more zer­oes on the end, the health­i­er. The sheer volume gets re­pet­it­ive and oc­ca­sion­ally con­fus­ing. But every so of­ten, a cam­paign fin­ance dis­clos­ure catches the eye and il­lu­min­ates something about a par­tic­u­lar cam­paign.

Here are eight fin­an­cial re­ports from the second quarter that par­tic­u­larly stood out, and why.

Hey, Big Spend­er—Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisi­ana Demo­crat

Landrieu’s big fun­drais­ing num­ber, over $2.1 mil­lion, caught at­ten­tion when she re­leased it, but the oth­er side of Landrieu’s cam­paign ledger is more in­ter­est­ing. The sen­at­or spent nearly $3.4 mil­lion in the spring as her cam­paign aired an ex­pens­ive series of TV ads aimed at re­in­tro­du­cing her to Louisi­ana voters. (For ref­er­ence, that’s along the lines of what some Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate can­did­ates in sim­il­arly sized states spent at the end of their cam­paigns in 2012.) That spend­ing is one of the clearest ef­fects we’ve seen of what out­side money has done to the 2014 elec­tions: Landrieu was the tar­get of mil­lions worth of out­side ad­vert­ising by con­ser­vat­ive groups at the end of last year, which helped prompt her early ad run. After that ex­pense, Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Bill Cas­sidy has nearly as much cash in the bank as Landrieu des­pite rais­ing less in the second quarter ($1.6 mil­lion).

Par­lay­ing Hog Cas­tra­tion In­to Cold Hard Cash—Joni Ernst, Iowa Re­pub­lic­an

Ernst shot to prom­in­ence in the Iowa Sen­ate race thanks to her fam­ous ad about cas­trat­ing hogs, but wor­ries still per­sisted about her low fun­drais­ing dur­ing the Re­pub­lic­an primary. Ernst’s second quarter re­port—nearly $1.8 mil­lion raised, just out­pa­cing Demo­crat­ic Rep. Bruce Bra­ley’s $1.7 mil­lion—demon­strates that she has found a pre­vi­ously miss­ing cam­paign piece, just as the gen­er­al elec­tion polls have tightened. Ernst still trails Bra­ley in fun­drais­ing, but the dis­par­ity isn’t as bad as some feared.

Fun­drais­ing Star—Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes, Ken­tucky Demo­crat

Last elec­tion, Eliza­beth War­ren was the un­dis­puted Demo­crat­ic fun­drais­ing star (be­sides Pres­id­ent Obama, of course). This time around, Grimes has taken over that title with sev­er­al strong fun­drais­ing re­ports, capped by a Ken­tucky re­cord $4 mil­lion raised in the second quarter. Grimes’s prob­lem, though, is that even though she’s now bested Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell in three of four fun­drais­ing quar­ters, Mc­Con­nell still has nearly $10 mil­lion in the bank after rais­ing money at a pretty healthy clip him­self. Bot­tom line: Neither is go­ing to be starved for cash this fall.

Trouble With the Day Job—Thom Tillis, North Car­o­lina Re­pub­lic­an

Weary of long le­gis­lat­ive re­cords, both parties run few­er state-level law­makers for Con­gress than they used to, even though they do have pluses, es­pe­cially cam­paign con­nec­tions and ex­per­i­ence. Tillis, the state House speak­er, high­lighted an­oth­er draw­back with his most re­cent fun­drais­ing re­port, which showed $1.6 mil­lion raised in the second quarter while Demo­crat­ic Sen. Kay Hagan raised $3.6 mil­lion. Tillis is stuck in an ex­ten­ded state le­gis­lat­ive ses­sion that’s caus­ing GOP in­fight­ing and keep­ing him from full-time cam­paign­ing. He’ll be out soon enough and there’s plenty of out­side money in North Car­o­lina to help him along, but it’s an­oth­er ex­ample of how state le­gis­latures can in­ter­fere with con­gres­sion­al cam­paigns.

Keep­ing Up With the 1 Per­cent—Rep. Chris Gib­son, New York Re­pub­lic­an

Gib­son’s well-heeled House op­pon­ent, Demo­crat­ic ven­ture cap­it­al­ist Sean Eldridge, has already giv­en his cam­paign over $1 mil­lion and could give much more between now and Novem­ber. The Re­pub­lic­an in­cum­bent’s re­sponse: nearly $820,000 raised in the second quarter, the most Gib­son has ever raised in a three-month span by some mar­gin. Eldridge could still end up swamp­ing the Re­pub­lic­an, but Gib­son is do­ing everything he can to keep up.

The Best De­fense—Rep. Patrick Murphy, Flor­ida Demo­crat

The fresh­man Murphy raised tons of money in 2012 when he was run­ning against con­tro­ver­sial Re­pub­lic­an Al­len West, but Murphy has man­aged to keep up the pace this elec­tion even without West stir­ring up Demo­crat­ic donors. Murphy’s strong fun­drais­ing—over $500,000 in every quarter, in­clud­ing nearly $760,000 in the second quarter of 2014—is one of the reas­ons a mar­quee Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger nev­er emerged in the Port St. Lucie area, though Murphy could still have a tough fight in this dis­trict that Mitt Rom­ney won in 2012.

Stay­ing in Strik­ing Dis­tance—Martha Mc­Sally, Ari­zona Re­pub­lic­an

House Demo­crats have a fin­an­cial ad­vant­age this year, as their vul­ner­able in­cum­bents have stock­piled cash ahead of ex­pec­ted tough cam­paigns. But an­oth­er strong fun­drais­ing quarter from Mc­Sally helped her keep pace with Demo­crat­ic Rep. Ron Barber ahead of their re­match in south­east­ern Ari­zona. Mc­Sally raised over $650,000 to boost her bank ac­count to over $1.1 mil­lion, with­in strik­ing dis­tance of Barber and his nearly $1.6 mil­lion.

How to Get Ahead in the Cap­it­ol—Rep. Steve Scal­ise, Louisi­ana Re­pub­lic­an

Scal­ise doesn’t have a com­pet­it­ive elec­tion on the ho­ri­zon. But the newly min­ted ma­jor­ity whip-elect raised and spent more money than in any quarter since his 2008 elec­tion as he cam­paigned for a Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship po­s­i­tion last month, fol­low­ing House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor’s sur­pris­ing primary loss. That $359,000 in spend­ing in­cluded over $26,000 on meals for meet­ings at steak­houses and oth­er res­taur­ants (one tab, at a Cajun res­taur­ant in D.C. where Scal­ise dined with his whip team, ran nearly $9,000); $30,000 in cam­paign dona­tions to 14 dif­fer­ent Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers (in­clud­ing Can­tor); and $7,000 worth of base­ball bats (which he gave to mem­bers of his cam­paign team) in the 20 days between Can­tor’s loss and the end of the second quarter.

After the GOP con­fer­ence elec­tions, Scal­ise re­couped some of the costs: Over $122,000 came in­to Scal­ise’s cam­paign ac­count from 64 dif­fer­ent PACs on the last day of the quarter, along with a smat­ter­ing of dona­tions from pres­id­ents and part­ners of Wash­ing­ton gov­ern­ment-re­la­tions firms. That helped power Scal­ise to al­most $350,000 in total re­ceipts in the second quarter—again, more than he had brought in since he last ran a com­pet­it­ive elec­tion. Scal­ise had av­er­aged just over $200,000 per quarter in fun­drais­ing since the be­gin­ning of 2013.

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