She didn’t win, but campaign finance records made public late last week suggest that Sharron Angle captured the energy of the national tea party movement perhaps better than any other Congressional candidate in 2010. And the Nevada Republican has no plans to give it up.
A former local legislator little-known even in her own state before she took on the Senate’s most powerful Democrat, Angle raised more campaign cash from donors than anyone else last cycle, drawing on a national network of conservative activists to raise a whopping $27 million through Election Day. That’s $4.4 million more than her opponent, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, and millions more than others in more expensive media markets, according to a batch of post-election finance reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission. Only self-financing candidates such as Linda McMahon in Connecticut were able to spend more.
Even having lost her election by more than 5 points, Angle’s fundraising prowess may lead to a continued role on the national stage.
Her campaign tells Roll Call that she’s continued to collect money from “several thousand donors” since the election. And in recent days, she has become the face of a conservative political action committee, the Patriot Caucus, which expects to play prominently in national politics in 2012.
“Sharron was able to build one of the best small-donor lists in the nation, consisting of more than 265,000 contributors across the country,” Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen told Roll Call. “Small-dollar donors traditionally remain loyal even after a campaign.”
Angle has expressed interest in running for Nevada’s 3rd district in 2012.
Angle bested the fundraising totals of California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer ($25.7 million), Reid ($22.6 million), and fellow tea party favorite, Florida Sen.-elect Marco Rubio ($20 million). Angle also shattered the impressive numbers of tea party darling Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), who led all House candidates this cycle by generating $13.3 million.
In becoming the nation’s top fundraiser, Angle largely avoided contributions from well-funded political action committees, relying instead on a river of smaller donations from individuals across the country. Almost half of her total receipts — $14.7 million — were checks of less than $200. And 98.5 percent of all donations came from individuals, but she paid for that haul in part by using firms to help collect conservative donors by the thousands.
Finance reports show that Angle ultimately spent every penny she raised. And then some.
While she attacked irresponsible spending on the campaign trail, her campaign reported unpaid debts of $636,000 as of Nov. 22. Offset by about $292,000 in cash on hand, she finished $334,000 in the red. Many candidates report debt associated with personal loans, but Angle’s debts were exclusively unpaid bills, largely with companies that helped facilitate her national fundraising apparatus.
She owed the fundraising firm Base Connect Inc. almost $225,000 for “direct mail creatives,” according to last week’s FEC filing.
The firm’s questionable tactics and high burn rates have been the subject of stories in this newspaper. Base Connect has been used by several conservatives with national name recognition, including Rep.-elect Allen West (Fla.).