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 »
CARSON UP NEXT
Zinke Confirmed As Interior Secretary
1 hours ago
BREAKING
GOODLATTE SENDING LETTER TO SESSIONS THIS WEEK
House GOP Blocks Dems on Trump Ethics
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

On a party-line vote, "the House Judiciary Committee defeated a Democratic effort Tuesday to obtain any information the Justice Department has on possible conflicts, ethical violations or improper connections to Russia by President Donald Trump and his associates. The committee’s Republican chairman, Bob Goodlatte, opposed the resolution, even as he acknowledged the Justice Department hasn’t acted on his own request for a briefing on alleged Russian interference with the U.S. election and potential ties to the Trump campaign." He said he'll be sending a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting him to pursue "all legitimate investigative leads" into those matters.

Source:
WAITING FOR NEWS CYCLE TO REFRESH
Trump Holds Off on New Travel Ban
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump won’t sign a revised travel ban on Wednesday as had been anticipated, two senior administration officials confirmed. One of the officials indicated that the delay was due to the busy news cycle, and that when Trump does sign the revised order, he wanted it to get plenty of attention."

Source:
BUT THEY MUST PAY
Donald Trump Affirms Support For NATO
14 hours ago
UPDATE

Near the end of his speech Tuesday, Donald Trump made a firm proclamation affirming his support for NATO. "We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism," Trump said. However, he continued on, "our partners must meet their financial obligations."

UNITES GOP
Obamacare Repeal Portion Lacks Specifics
15 hours ago
UPDATE

In his address to a joint session of Congress, Donald Trump called on the two chambers "to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare." The entire section of Republican members of Congress united in a standing ovation, while Democrats sat silently, with some even giving a thumbs down to the cameras. At one point, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was shown shaking her head in disapproval. While Trump called for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, he failed to give any specifics, though he did say those with preexisting conditions should have access to care and give flexibility back to the states.

×
×

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