How Much Did You Pay for That Primary Win?

Spending millions of your own money can get you nominated, but it won’t guarantee you a win in November.

National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman and Adam Wollner
Add to Briefcase
Karyn Bruggeman and Adam Wollner
May 27, 2014, 6:46 p.m.

Self-fund­ing can­did­ates are off to a strong start this elec­tion sea­son, but if his­tory is any guide, it won’t last.

Already, gubernat­ori­al hope­fuls, such as Re­pub­lic­an Bruce Rau­ner of Illinois and Demo­crat Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, won primar­ies after pour­ing mil­lions of their own cash in­to their cam­paigns. Dav­id Per­due waded through a crowded Geor­gia Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an field to ad­vance to a Ju­ly run­off elec­tion and polit­ic­al new­comer Curt Clawson won the GOP nom­in­a­tion for a spe­cial elec­tion in Flor­ida’s 19th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict the same way.

How much did it cost? Well, with $10 mil­lion spent, Wolf has taken the most out of his wal­let. Rau­ner shelled out more than $6.5 mil­lion, while Per­due per­son­ally put in nearly $3 mil­lion — with more po­ten­tially on the way. Clawson has spent more than $2.6 mil­lion.

While that might look like money well spent, self-fund­ing seems to only of­fer an ini­tial boost to help can­did­a­cies get off the ground. In­deed, his­tory shows it’s far from a sure­fire way to clinch vic­tory in Novem­ber.

Over the past three elec­tion cycles, 54 per­cent of House and Sen­ate can­did­ates who per­son­ally con­trib­uted or loaned at least $500,000 to their cam­paigns se­cured their party’s nom­in­a­tion, but just 22 per­cent of all self-fun­ders won their races, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. 

Over the past three elec­tion cycles, just 22 per­cent of all self-fun­ders won their races.

The biggest self-fund­ing flop dur­ing that peri­od came cour­tesy of Meg Whit­man, CEO of Hew­lett-Pack­ard, who spent a whop­ping $144 mil­lion of her per­son­al for­tune in a failed ef­fort to de­feat Demo­crat Jerry Brown in the 2010 Cali­for­nia gov­ernor’s race. On the Sen­ate side, former WWE CEO Linda McMa­hon pumped nearly $100 mil­lion of her own money in­to two un­suc­cess­ful bids in Con­necti­c­ut.

In 2012, Texas Lt. Gov. Dav­id Dewhurst fell short in his GOP primary run­off elec­tion against Ted Cruz even though he spent just shy of $20 mil­lion on the ef­fort. Dav­id Alameel’s fourth-place fin­ish in Texas’s 33rd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict primary per­son­ally cost him about $4.5 mil­lion — or $2,173 per vote.

This year, not all can­did­ates who at least par­tially self-fin­anced have found suc­cess. Sid Dinsdale lost in Neb­raska’s GOP Sen­ate primary des­pite loan­ing his cam­paign $1 mil­lion down the fi­nal stretch of the race, and Matt Bev­in spent $900,000 of his own money in his failed bid to un­seat Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell in Ken­tucky. Look­ing ahead to Iowa’s Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate primary on June 3, busi­ness­man Mark Jac­obs has put more than $3 mil­lion to­ward his cam­paign but still has fallen be­hind state Sen. Joni Ernst in re­cent polls.

For the lim­ited num­ber of self-fun­ders who emerge from the gen­er­al elec­tion, one ma­jor up­side is that they likely won’t be forced to de­liv­er a re­peat per­form­ance the next time around. A hand­ful of in­cum­bents who used their per­son­al re­serves to win of­fice are for­go­ing the op­tion while seek­ing reelec­tion this year. For in­stance, Flor­ida Gov. Rick Scott spent more than $70 mil­lion on his suc­cess­ful 2010 bid and Min­nesota Gov. Mark Dayton spent a com­bined $15 mil­lion on his 2010 race and pre­vi­ous Sen­ate win in 2000, but neither has in­dic­ated they’ll be open­ing up their wal­lets this year.

In ad­di­tion, Demo­crat­ic Sens. Mark Warner and Kay Hagan con­sist­ently rank among the 10 richest mem­bers of the U.S. Sen­ate in terms of net worth, but have used the perks of in­cum­bency to es­tab­lish strong enough polit­ic­al net­works to skip the self-fund­ing that fueled their earli­er runs.

What We're Following See More »
“CHAIR WITH ONLY ONE FULL TIME COMMITMENT”
Rep. Ellison Confirms He Will Quit Congress If Elected DNC Chair
2 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is currently the favorite to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and he has confirmed that if he is elected come February, he will resign his seat in Congress. In a statement from Ellison this morning, he says that the Democratic Party needs "a chair with only one full time commitment."

TO BE ANNOUNCED IN COMING DAYS
Trump To Nominate Gen. John Kelly For Homeland Security
39 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump has chosen Gen. James Kelly to be his secretary of homeland security, making Kelly the third general tapped by Trump to serve in his administration. The official announcement is likely to come in the next couple of days. Kelly, who did not endorse Trump during the campaign, "was the commander of U.S. Southern Command until earlier this year."

Source:
2018 WATCH
Iowa Gov. Branstad Nominated For Ambassador To China
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Iowa Republican Terry Branstad, the longest-serving governor in American history, has accepted President-elect Donald Trump's offer to serve as ambassador to China, Bloomberg reported late Tuesday. Branstad has a longstanding relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and backed Trump during the election. If he's confirmed, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would become the Hawkeye State's first female governor and could run for a full term in 2018. Iowa does not place term limits on its governors.

NO SURPRISE HERE
Trump Is TIME’s Person of the Year
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS
INCLUDES WAIVER FOR MATTIS
Congress Releases Stopgap Funding Bill
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Congressional negotiators released a stopgap spending bill Tuesday night to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday and to fund federal agencies and programs through April 28." The 70-page continuing resolution includes $170 million to aid Flint, Michigan's water supply, and a waiver that would allow Ret. Gen. James Mattis to assume the role of secretary of Defense.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login