DONORS BEWARE: Do You Know Where Your Campaign Donations Go?

You live in Maryland and are 82 years old.  You get a call from a California campaign.  “Will you donate to defeat Nancy Pelosi or Maxine Waters?’  You are told how that hate America and killing the Republic.  If you give $50 we have a chance to throw them out.”  Of course in Maryland, you do not know the GOP registration in the Pelosi district is 6% or in the Waters district it is 12%.  All they know is that Pelosi and Waters are bad people, harming minorities, the State and nation.

No one is suggesting anything being done is illegal or violated the rules of the Federal Elections Commission.  In fact, the numbers come from the FEC, as given them by the campaigns.  While I am pointing out two campaigns and two fund raising companies (none of whom did anything wrong), we as donors need to be wise in how we spend our political dollars.  In one case a campaign spent 90% of the money raised going to the fund raisers.  In the other race, 60% went to fund raisers.

What do you think the donors, especially the elderly and those out of State should do to help finance campaigns against Democrats instead of providing massive amounts of money to fund raisers and very little to voter contact in the District?

DONORS BEWARE:  Do You Know Where Your Campaign Donations Go?

Stephen Frank, Exclusive to the California Political News and Views,  10/21/19  

This article is not about the two campaigns mentioned.  It is about warning donors to be careful how they spend their political dollars and who it really goes to.  To win an election you need voter contact.  That means raising a lot of money.  If you are running against a Nancy Pelosi or a Maxine Waters, it really takes a lot of money.  If your overhead eats up almost all your money, consultants, attorneys, travel expenses, fund raisers and have little left over to tell the voters your side of the story—or to remind them how your opponent is harming them, then the money raised is being wasted.

For example, In 2014, John Dennis ran for Congress against San Fran Nan.  He raised $623,000.  That is amazing—a massive amount is a 6% GOP District.  His fund raiser, from Akron Ohio (using telemarketing) took $507,000—or 83% of the money raised.  But that is good.  In the 3rd quarter of 2019 he raised $95,000 (all numbers rounded off in this article) of which $87,000  (90%) went to InfoCision Management Corporation—the same firm he used in 2014.  See his 2019 FEC report here. 

In total for the 2020 race against Pelosi, Dennis has raised $145,000.-  Yet, his Cash on Hand (COH) at the end of the period was $25,000.

Then you have the Joe Collins for Congress campaign against Maxine Waters—in a 12% GOP District.  In this race he has raised an eye popping $437,000.  That is beyond belief (please do not take this sentence out of context).  His fund raiser/telemarketer is Campaign Solutions—they got $271,000 or a little over 60%.  After raising $437,000, with money going to telemarketers, lots of travel—including Uber and Lyft—Mr. Collins has $21,000 COH—with $6,000 in debts.  So, for $437,000 he has $15,000 to spend on voter contact.  See his FEC report here

I spoke with John Dennis about this and he agreed with my numbers.  Of course, “my numbers” come from his reports to the FEC.  He explained that the reason most of the telemarketing donors are as Rush Limbaugh calls them “seasoned citizens”, is because young people seldom have landline anymore and it is difficult to get cell phone numbers legally.  He went on to explain that folks around the nation know who Pelosi and Waters are—and are donating emotionally to defeat the “bad guys”.,.  I understand that. 

Yet, where are the adults in these campaigns?  They have to know that with almost all the money going to vendors for travel and fund raising, there is little left to use for voter contact.  Campaigns are not about raising money and making vendors rich—they are about defeating Democrats and changing public policy.

As I said in the beginning NOTHING done was illegal nor in violation of any law.  Yet, I feel we need to be more sophisticated in our giving and strategic.  At the least, the vast majority of money raised should go to voter contact, not vendors.

How do you think we should handle this?  Yes, we do need small donors—and it costs a lot of money to develop those lists. But it appears we are not meeting the first priority of a campaign by spending upwards of 90% on fund raising and leaving no money for voter contact.  It is like starting a business just to say you started a business.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.