Monday, September 16, 2013

Full-Time Fundraising

Fundraising by legislative and statewide candidates has become a nonstop chore with no break even in non-election years.

Large contributions funneled through check-bundling operations known as conduits prove this point.

A recent Democracy Campaign report showed conduit contributions to sitting legislators jumped 317 percent from about $900,000 in the 1993-94 election cycle to a record $3.7 million in the 2011-12 election cycle.

But the surge in large individual conduit contributions in odd-numbered years was especially striking, increasing 728 percent from a low of nearly $307,000 in 1995 to $2.54 million in 2011 (see Bar Chart).

Large Individual Conduit Contributions in Non-Election Years to Legislative and Statewide Candidates

The record-breaking fundraising in the 2011 recall races was responsible for some of the large conduit contributions generated in 2011, but steady, substantial increases in off-year fundraising occurred before then. Statewide and legislative candidates raised about $1.2 million in large individual conduit contributions in 2005, 2007 and 2009 – nearly 300 percent more than in 1995.

Even governors who historically rely less on conduit contributions than candidates for other offices are raising dramatically more conduit cash when they’re not up for reelection.

In the 1990s, Republican Governor Tommy Thompson collected about $300,000 in large individual conduit cash in the 1993-94 and in 1997-98 when he was up for reelection, but only about $54,000 in 1995-96 and $23,100 in 1999-2000 when he did not face reelection.

A decade later Democratic Governor Jim Doyle’s campaign pulled down large conduit contributions totaling about $450,000 in 2003-04 and 2007-08 when he didn’t face reelection.

In the 2006 cycle when Doyle faced reelection his campaign collected a record $629,665 in large individual conduit contributions. Doyle’s record was recently topped by Walker’s $663,234 in large conduit contributions in 2011-12.

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