Money Matters: Mitch Is Rich

Posted October 15, 2008 at 6:42pm

Third-quarter campaign finance reports began trickling into the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, and with them, a glimpse at Congressional fundraising and spending heading into the homestretch.

[IMGCAP(1)]Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who now finds himself in a tighter race than he wanted to be in, continued to be the most active Senator on the political money front.

McConnell, who is fending off a challenge from wealthy health care executive Bruce Lunsford (D), spent more than $6 million from July 1 to Sept. 30, according to his FEC report. But he still had more than $5.7 million on hand, meaning he was amply equipped to defend his seat in the final weeks of the campaign.

Lunsford, who has seeded his campaign with at least $2.4 million of his own money, spent more than $3.2 million during the three-month period and ended September with more than $1.2 million on hand. He is being aided in his effort by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is flush with cash and began advertising in the Bluegrass State last week.

Two other endangered Republican Senators, Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Susan Collins (Maine), had huge war chests for the final push — each topping $3 million in cash on hand as of Sept. 30. That was more than their Democratic challengers had — comedian Al Franken and Rep. Tom Allen, respectively.

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) had considerably less in the bank — $1.5 million — but he spent more than $4.8 million from July 1 to Sept. 30 as he attempts to fend off state Speaker Jeff Merkley (D), who has taken a slight lead in recent polls.

Campaign finance records were unavailable at press time for the combatants in several competitive Senate races.

Declaration of Independent Expenditures. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee continued to pour on the independent expenditures this week, shelling out more than $8 million in 45 Congressional districts on Tuesday alone, according to FEC records.

The committee poured in almost $1 million on Tuesday in Arizona, as it works to protect Rep. Harry Mitchell (D), grab the seat left vacant by the indictment and subsequent retirement of Rep. Rick Renzi (R), and pull an upset in the district of Rep. John Shadegg (R).

The DCCC has topped $1 million in independent expenditures in 10 districts. Committee spending has increased significantly this week in Washington’s 8th district, where two new polls — paid for, granted, by Democratic interest groups — showed challenger Darcy Burner (D) leading Rep. Dave Reichert (R) after a string of previous polls showed the incumbent ahead.

DCCC spending has also gone up notably in New York’s 29th district, where retired Navy Cmdr. Eric Massa (D) appears to be on the verge of ousting Rep. Randy Kuhl (R).

One place where the DCCC is almost certain to cease all spending is in Florida’s 16th district, where freshman Rep. Tim Mahoney (D) has been rocked this week by an unfolding sex scandal. The committee had invested $431,000 on Mahoney’s re- election as of Tuesday.

Although the DCCC had outspent the National Republican Congressional Committee 11-1 through Tuesday, NRCC spending has accelerated in recent days. The NRCC’s biggest expenditure — $561,000 — has been in Florida’s 21st district, where Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R) is fending off a challenge from former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez (D).

Although Democratic strategists believe they have a chance of ousting both Diaz-Balart brothers — Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) faces a tough challenge from Miami-Dade County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Garcia — the DCCC had not begun spending in either of those South Florida districts.

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