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Campaign Funds For Legislative Races

November 1, 2011

On more than one occasion, Sen. David Baria, running for HD 122, has made a point of saying that his Republican opponent Dorothy Wilcox is being funded by “big insurance and big business.” Baria, as we have talked about, is one of the Democrats who can raise a good bit of money on his own. He has raised nearly $50,000 this year including $28,000 over the last reporting period ending on October 10.

Baria has been able to do this with a coalition including attorneys (which makes sense considering his former position as head of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association) and, gulp, even business. This includes casinos, life insurance companies, Mississippi Power, PhRMA, DuPont (big Jeff Gordon fan?), and the evil of all evil, Wal-Mart. I counted maybe a handful of true itemized individual contributions from Hancock county residents on his last report.

And here’s the little secret anyone can see: Individuals don’t donate to legislative campaign. At least not in any significant fashion. It’s businesses, attorney’s, medical professionals, etc. That is simply how it goes for Democrats and Republicans who want money to run a credible campaign. In order, in my opinion, here are where individuals are likely to make political donations, not including to non-profit organizations like Heritage Foundation: President, U.S. Senate, Governor, U.S. House, down-ticket statewide office, state Senate, state House. State Senate and House, while important, are obviously at the bottom of the list and the bottom of pocketbooks of most.

This leads to PACs. Look at any campaign finance report and you will see the role they play. The Clarion-Ledger recently had a look at some of the bigger PACs in the state. On the Republican side, Haley’s PAC has given $55,000 to the state party and $50,000 to the House Republican Conference PAC. They appear to be the two biggest PACs for Republicans. The state GOP has spent about $300,000 while the House PAC has spent around $80,000.

In the past, VPAC has been the top House Democratic PAC. It made a lot of noise in 2007, while many Democrats waited until after the election to disclose the contribution (therefore giving them cover on whom they’d vote for for Speaker). It’s still around, and still dishing out money to the tune of $250,000 this year, but so are others.

The Believe PAC is run by Bobby Moak, a candidate for Speaker of the House. Here’s an interesting note about his PAC: Of the $37,000 it has distributed, the PAC has given contributions to the likes of Willie Perkins, Greg Holloway, and Chuck Middleton. Three Democrats without opposition. Perhaps Moak is hoping to secure their support when it comes time for Democrats to choose a Speaker candidate. The only other announced Democratic candidate for Speaker is Cecil Brown. With Johnny Stringer, they have formed the Kids PAC. They don’t have any reports out yet, but we know they have been sending out mailers (at least) knocking Republicans.

One last PAC, and another one that has very large pockets, is the Justice for All Mississippians PAC. It is registered to the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association. They have collected more than $217,000 this year, and have spent $186,000, mostly on Democratic consultants, little given to actual candidates. One fun disbursement: they gave $1,200 to Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, for something. Their contributor list reads like a who’s-who of Mississippi trial lawyers:

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. jack bauer permalink
    November 1, 2011 3:07 pm

    There are two other–very significant– factors also worth mentioning. First, the funds being expended by the Republican State Leadership Committee against targeted Democrats in the House and Senate. Second, the “coordinated” and “bundled” contributions from the Manufacturers, Physicians (with two PAC’s), Poultry, Realtors, and Homebuilders Associations. They are mostly backing all the same candidates and collectively account for several hundreds of thousands of dollars that dwarf the Trial Lawyers, Bobby Moak, Kids Pac, and VPAC combined. It amazes me we’re still talking about some of the House races being “too close to call”, what with the combined and coordinated resources of the RSLC and the “Gang of Six” business PAC’s.

    • Bill Billingsley permalink
      November 1, 2011 3:34 pm

      The reason that some are still too close to call is that the closer you get to the people, the less that money can influence the outcome of the race. There are several examples of House and Senate races being lost by the candidate with the most money, most notably in the metro area being the defeat of Charles Barbour in the Senate District 25 Republican primary. Having the most money is better than having the least, but you also need the right candidate.

      I don’t like the constant fundraising that goes with politics at every level, but how do you slow it down without bumping up against the First Amendment? Although Will Longwitz won the primary mentioned above without having the most money, he still raised a good bit and probably wouldn’t have won with much less. I guess there will be money flowing into political campaigns as long as it buys the donor the access they seek, or at least makes them feel like they’ll have the access when they need it.

  2. jack bauer permalink
    November 1, 2011 3:46 pm

    All good points, Bill. What’s blowing my mind is that the GOP and business PAC’s are collectively spending well over a million dollars. Then you read Brett’s post below this one that says there is a chance the Democrats may still maintain control of the House!! I know David beat Goliath with a single stone, but falling short of total control of the House after spending that kind of money against so little from the other side would be an embarrassment to me. Glad it’s not my money they’re throwing around.

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