FEC: House Fundraising Has Soared This Cycle

Posted October 24, 2005 at 6:24pm

It will come as no surprise to the people who raise money for political campaigns — or those who are tapped for contributions — but fundraising for House races has skyrocketed compared to the previous election cycle.

According to a new study by the Federal Election Commission, House candidates have collectively raised $202.4 million in the first nine months of the 2006 election cycle. That’s almost 23 percent more than the $165.1 million that candidates raised during the equivalent period in the 2004 cycle.

And candidates are stockpiling cash at an even greater rate, the study found. Through Sept. 30, candidates in all 435 House races had $251.8 million in the bank — a 34 percent increase over the $187.5 million they had on hand through Sept. 30, 2003.

While the FEC found a steady growth in fundraising among incumbents, the rate of increase was dramatically higher among nonincumbents — challengers and candidates in open seat races. The overall amount of money taken in by nonincumbents during the first nine months of 2005 rose by more than 34 percent over the equivalent period in 2003.

Contributions from political action committees rose by a whopping 186 percent — from just short of $1 million to $2.8 million — while the amount of cash on hand went up 73 percent, from $13.8 million to $23.9 million.

As might be expected, half of the top-10 fundraisers for nonincumbents were candidates running in special elections. When California Democrat Doris Matsui was running to succeed her husband, the late Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.), she raised more than $1.1 million between January and the end of September. She won the special election in March, and placed at the top of the list of nonincumbent fundraisers.

Ohio state Rep. Pat DeWine (R), son of Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), ranked second on the list. He raised more than $1 million this year, only to lose the Republican special primary election in Ohio’s 2nd district to succeed ex-Rep. Rob Portman (R), who is now the U.S. trade representative. The winner of that race, now-Rep. Jean Schmidt (R), ranked sixth on the list of nonincumbent fundraisers, taking in $885,000 through Sept. 30.

Five nonincumbents who made the top 10 fundraising list were not involved in special elections in 2005, including two wealthy, self-funding businessmen, a former House Member seeking a return to Congress, and the son of a retiring Member who is trying to succeed his father.

One of those on the list is Laredo banker/attorney Quico Canseco (R), who was preparing to run to succeed Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), had Bonilla run for Senate in 2006. But with the incumbent apparently staying put, it is unclear whether Canseco, who seeded his campaign fund with $1 million earlier this year, will run for anything in 2006.

Another on the list is Florida state Sen. Ron Klein (D), who is challenging Rep. Clay Shaw (R) next year. Klein raised $968,000 in the first nine months of 2005.

Ex-Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas), who is challenging embattled Rep. Tom DeLay (R), collected $841,000 through Sept. 30. Florida state Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R), son of retiring Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-Fla.), raised $741,000. And Illinois investment banker David McSweeney, one of several Republicans seeking to take on freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) next year, recorded $698,000 in contributions — almost $300,000 of which were in the form of loans from himself.

The top 10 list of House incumbents who have raised the most money is dominated by Members in leadership positions, those who are contemplating Senate bids or those who are seen as vulnerable in 2006 — and in some cases, a combination of the three.

The top 10 are DeLay with $920,000, Bonilla with $788,000, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) with $776,000, Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) with $699,000, Deputy Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) with $660,000, Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) with $640,000, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) with $633,000, Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) with $576,000, Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) with $573,000 and Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) with $569,000.

Menendez, who’s being talked about as a possible Senate appointment if Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) wins the governor’s race next month, was second on the list of House Members in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, with $4.1 million in the bank.

Heading the list was Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), who has been stockpiling money for a future Senate bid. He had more than $4.8 million on hand.

A summary of the study and accompanying charts can be viewed at www.fec.gov/press/press2005/20051019candidate/20051019house.html.