Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thinking Thoughtfully: Sixth District Fundraising

Fundraising numbers for the quarter ending September 30th were released today for those republicans vying for the chance to succeed Michele Bachmann in Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District next November. Most reporting, and tweeting, has been of the lazy "here's a number" sort of thing. In fact, total numbers tell only a part of the story of what is going on in this race.

Establishment candidate, failed gubernatorial candidate and George Soros lobbyist Tom Emmer raised the most money for the third quarter of 2013 but his numbers plunged dramatically nonetheless. In the first three weeks of the race he raised $225,000. In the next three months he raised only $150,000, not coming close to keeping up the pace. Withering this early is a deeply troubling sign.

But let's go further into the numbers because readers of this blog are not low information anything. Of the $225,000 raised, about $76,000 cannot be used in the primary, only the general election. This is because a limited number of donors "double maxed-out," meaning they gave a total of $5,200, half of which can be used now and the other half in the general election. That leaves Emmer with about $150,000 from the prior reporting period.

It's reasonable to assume a significant portion of Emmer's most recent numbers, $150,000, likewise contains dollars not available until the general election, leaving him with less cash on hand than might at first appear to be the case. Whether that proportion is the same with respect to third quarter numbers as it was to the second quarter we don't know just yet.

Emmer did, apparently, spend $75,000 in the second quarter. That's quite a burn rate and one which it's fair to ask if his donors are aware of. He has four paid staffers and office space resulting in an estimated monthly burn rate of approximately $25,000. For a shoe-in, that's enormous. One fundraiser expressed her surprise to me that, given Emmer's competitors show every sign of going the distance, he would spend this profligately. Then again, judgment has never been Tom's strong suit. The political barnacles who attach themselves to his ship aren't especially astute either.

Another way (they're legion) of seeing Emmer's unimpressiveness is to look at Rep. Erik Paulsen's experience. His first quarter haul (in the 4th quarter of 2007) of fundraising for the Third Congressional District was $390,000. That was six years ago and Paulsen raised more in his first three months than Emmer has in four months and he was a statewide candidate! If you find Emmer impressive, my guess is you are not.

The Emmer Borg also preened that it had 1,400 individual donors. This means the lists Emmer has bought, rented or previously owned have been beaten to death. The five, ten and twenty dollar donors are spent. To see this as an example of some grand, organized campaign is simply to be an unpaid cheerleader. The more informed of us don't take such puffery seriously.

Finally, the current federal shutdown has many Americans distrustful of politicians. Many members of the Senate and House of Representatives are not taking paychecks during this time. If the past is any experience, Emmer would have his snout in the federal trough.

When Emmer was in the Minnesota legislature he continued to draw his salary during the state government shutdown of 2005.

Phil Krinkie, also running to replace Bachmann, reported approximately $340,000 of which $300,000 was a personal loan to the campaign. Emmer supporters snicker because of this fact but money is money and Emmer remains a lousy candidate who has overstayed his modest welcome in Minnesota republican politics.

What those sycophants don't say, of course, is that Krinkie now has $100,000 more cash on hand than Emmer. This is because all of that money can be spent in the primary. Phil Krinkie has quietly served notice that he isn't going anywhere and that a lazy coronation of someone who thinks he deserves public office won't be happening in the Sixth.

State Sen. John Pederson raised approximately $52,000 in the third quarter of the year with about $40,000 cash on hand. To date Pederson has raised around $87,000.

Finally, Anoka County Commissioner Chair, and my preferred candidate, Rhonda Sivarajah raised approximately $180,000 of which $150,000 was loaned to the campaign by her and her husband Ran. The same Emmer dullards denigrate her own self-funding but, weirdly, are quick to call it good news when other republican candidates can self-fund against DFL incumbents.

It's especially important that Sivarajah voted with her pocketbook for herself this early in the campaign. The lazy media and ur-republican pundit narrative was that Emmer was a field clearer. This is as laughable as saying he has a record of accomplishment. He'll be as inconsequential and as much a tedious show horse as the retiring Michele Bachmann if elected to Congress.

Voters in the Sixth District deserve the time to get to know Rhonda and her sterling record of genuine accomplishment. Time favors her, disfavors the retread. I'm disappointed some well known republican women haven't publicly supported her; it makes me rather disinclined to listen to their complaints about the position of women in the Minnesota Republican Party. Or is what is operating here that old Anatole France maxim: "Friendship among women is only a suspension of hostilities?"

At any rate, Rhonda Sivarajah clearly has the most electoral room to grow. By investing in her own campaign she has roughly equal the money to what Tom Emmer has on hand for the primary. You wouldn't get this realization from reading the superficial coverage of today's fundraising numbers.

It's not that there isn't anything new to learn about Emmer: it's that there is. He became a national, instead of state, laughing stock when his doltish endorsement of Integrity Exteriors & Remodelers was riotously mocked by Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report.  The original reporting on this was done by progressive blogger Sally Jo Sorensen although WCCO's Pat Kessler brazenly lied about finding it on his own and, disappointingly, was given credit for that demonstrable falsehood by Blois Olson in his widely read "Morning Take." When both the left and the right think local media suck, they have a problem.

As of this writing, The Drudge Report is highlighting a bill that has been introduced in Alabama to castrate sex offenders. Tom Emmer introduced a similar bill in the Minnesota legislature. Nothing says Minnesota like Alabama. Voters of any and all parties in Minnesota's Sixth deserve much, much better.

Unfortunately for Emmer, the low information donors have given most of what they can. That his numbers dropped precipitously this quarter shows that wiser, wealthier donors are wary of him at best, repulsed at worst. They haven't migrated to Sivarajah yet because she's not as well known as she needs to be. But she will get there. Phil Krinkie is a fine candidate but here, too, Sivarajah simply has the best record. Everything that turns off people is embodied in the serial failures masquerading as Emmer's political career; the very best, the things that give people some optimism that the system might possibly work, is embodied in Sivirajah's.

Emmer and his small band of supporters can content themselves, for now, that he's the frontrunner. But being the frontrunner isn't all it's cracked up to be. Just ask Marty Seifert.

Correction: This post first identified Rep. Jim Ramstad as raising $390,000 in his first reported quarter of fundraising for the Third Congressional District. In fact, it was Erik Paulsen running to replace Ramstad after he retired from Congress representing the Third.