Wednesday April 24, 2019
Home Lead Story Democrats Gai...

Democrats Gain Fundraising Advantage In The US Midterm Elections

In the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suffered an upset despite spending $387 million more than billionaire businessman Donald Trump.

0
//
Election
Former U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a political rally for California Democratic candidates during a event in Anaheim, California, September 8, 2018. VOA

In the battle for Congress, Democrats are winning the money game. But will it be enough for them to overtake Republicans?

In what is shaping up to be the most expensive U.S. congressional election in history, Democrats have had a distinct advantage in fundraising over Republicans throughout the midterm election cycle as they seek to break the GOP’s stranglehold on Congress.

While Republicans are widely expected to preserve their slim 51-to-49-seat majority in the U.S. Senate and possibly expand it, polls show the Democrats poised to take back the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in seven years. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to retake the House.

On the ballot

All 435 House seats as well as 35 of 100 Senate seats will be on the ballot next month. Candidates vying for those coveted seats have raised a record $2.3 billion from individual donors and political action committees (PACs) through Sept. 30, according to the latest filings this week with the Federal Election Commission.

Overall, Democrats outraised Republicans by an unprecedented $410 million. In House races, Democratic candidates raised more than $850 million from individuals and PACs, compared with $577 million generated by Republicans. In Senate contests, Democrats hauled in nearly $490 million, compared with $353 million garnered by Republicans.

The average House campaign spends a little more than $1 million during a two-year election cycle, yet 30 Democrats have raised more than $2 million each so far this cycle.

election
A combination photo shows U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, left, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, right, speaking to supporters in Del Rio, Texas, Sept. 22, 2018 and in Columbus, Texas, Sept. 15, 2018 respectively. VOA

In the most expensive non-special House race this cycle, a closely fought contest in Southern California between Republican Young Kim and Democrat Gil Cisneros has cost more than $20 million. Among Senate contests, the most expensive race is between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who have raised a combined total of nearly $100 million.

Republicans fared as well or better than the Democrats in raising campaign cash from corporate PACs, those high-powered fundraising operations with minimal disclosure requirements or spending restrictions. But the Democrats crushed Republicans in raising individual contributions through the internet or campaign fundraising events. O’Rourke, a U.S. House member from El Paso, Texas, reported last week that he had raised a record $30 million during the third quarter from 800,000 contributors.

Federal campaign finance law prevents individuals from contributing more than $2,700 to a congressional campaign committee in any one election, while allowing traditional political action committees to donate up to $5,000. However, so-called independent-expenditure committees, or “super PACS,” can raise and spend unlimited amounts to advance their causes or political parties.

“There is a tremendous amount of small-dollar energy going on the Democratic side,” said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“Democratic House candidates are raising small-dollar donations from donors across the country, who are doing what they can trying to win the House back for Democrats. Republicans are trying to counteract that with third-party groups and outside spending.”

election

Fundraising edge, cash on hand

Moreover, Democratic challengers have outraised Republican opponents in a majority of several dozen House races seen as highly competitive. And as the campaign enters its final two weeks, data show Democrats have more cash on hand than Republicans, something that will allow them to fund a last-minute push to mobilize voters.

Sarah Bryner, research director at the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization, said the Democrats’ enormous fundraising edge is “fairly significant and fairly unusual.”

“The trend with election spending is just almost always up due to a variety of factors,” Bryner said. “But this election cycle we have a huge crop of well-funded Democratic challengers and that’s going to increase spending across the board as the incumbents they’re facing try to counteract that spending.”

Money is the lifeblood of American campaigning. Candidates and their consultants use funds to buy expensive TV airtime, pay for personnel and other campaign expenses, and hold events to raise more funds. Advertising represents the single largest expense of a congressional campaign.

Money will continue to pour in throughout the last two weeks of the campaign, helped by some deep-pocketed benefactors seeking to tip the balance in key races

election
Michael Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor and U.N. Special Envoy for Climate Action, speaks in Washington. VOA

Last week, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he was giving $20 million to the Democrats’ Senate super PAC. Most of the money will go toward buying TV airtime for embattled Democratic candidates. That brings to nearly $100 million the amount the billionaire businessman has contributed to the Democrats this cycle, making him one of the largest donors.

“Given the rise of super PACs in the post-Citizens United era, it’s possible for people to make those huge donations late in the game,” Bryner said, referring to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that found spending limits on outside organizations unconstitutional.

“Right now, this is the Wild West in the United States,” said Martin Frost, a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and now president of the bipartisan Association of Former Members of Congress. “People can put as much money as they want in politics. Some of that money is disclosed and some of it is not.”

With Republican incumbents struggling in several dozen key races, party leaders and groups have begun to cut their losses, pulling funding from races they think the Democrats will win and reallocating resources to more competitive contests.

In its first act of triage in late September, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, canceled a planned $3.1 million ad buy in two districts in Michigan and Colorado where the Republican incumbents are struggling, the Associated Press reported. That was followed by similar moves in several other congressional districts.

election
Michael Steele, then-Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, announces that he is dropping his re-election bid, Jan. 14, 2011, during the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Oxon Hill, Md. VOA

Infusions of cash or pulling the plug

Parties perform spending triage all the time. But the infusion of cash, such as Bloomberg’s $20 million donation, has put added pressure on the Republicans to pull the plug on uncompetitive races.

“What happens is races that are at the margins, where it’s just going to be a tough slog regardless, they’ll pull out of those races … and they’ll reallocate those resources into races where that $20 million by Bloomberg now may make a difference,” said Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Just how much of a difference the Democrats’ money advantage will make remains to be seen. Money is not always a guarantor of electoral success.

Also Read: President Donald Trump Key Force In Driving The Midterm Elections

In the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suffered an upset despite spending $387 million more than billionaire businessman Donald Trump. In a special election for a congressional seat in Georgia last year, Democrat Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel despite a $20 million fundraising advantage.

And O’Rourke’s massive fundraising advantage has failed to cut into Cruz’s substantial seven-point lead in the U.S. Senate race in Texas.

“A lot of people make a big deal about money and sort of think that’s the dark angel of American politics, but I can tell you there are … as many races there where the person with the most money loses as there are where that individual wins,” Steele said. “So at the end of the day, candidates still have to make a credible message, they still have to be credible themselves for the voters … to actually utilize the benefit of those dollars that are getting poured into that campaign.” (VOA)

Next Story

Concrete Efforts Needed For Restoration of Democracy in Cambodia

“One drawback was the lack of courage to participate from other political parties, commentators, and civil society organizations who may have feared for their safety,” he said.

0
South Korea
Delegates take part in the Cambodian Democrats Congress in Gwangju, South Korea, April 21, 2019. RFA

Cambodian opposition leaders and supporters wrapped up a weekend gathering in South Korea with a call for a concerted effort to “restore” democracy to Cambodia and an appeal for support from signatories of the Paris Peace Agreement, which reestablished elections there after years of conflict.

Seventy Cambodian politicians, analysts, rights campaigners, and former prisoners of conscience traveled from around the globe to Gwangju for an April 19-21 Cambodian Democrats Congress organized by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), where they exchanged ideas on reinstating democratic freedoms in Cambodia amidst a crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The CNRP was banned by Cambodia’s Supreme Court in November 2017, months after its president, Kem Sokha, was arrested for an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

The dissolution of the CNRP was part of a wider crackdown by Hun Sen on the opposition, NGOs and the independent media, which paved the way for his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in parliament in the country’s July 2018 general election. The CNRP has since regrouped and remains active outside the country.

At the conclusion of the weekend’s Cambodian Democrats Congress, delegates concluded that the crackdown had forced Cambodia down the “wrong track” politically, and required that democrats from the Cambodian diaspora unite to realign the democratic process with that originally envisioned by Cambodia’s constitution and the spirit of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.

The congress called on all political parties, the armed forces, civil servants, NGOs, Buddhist clergy, academics, laborers and farmers, both inside and outside of the country, to “actively participate in the restoration of Cambodian democracy” in accordance with the charter and the accord in a nonviolent manner.

government
The congress and demonstration took place despite earlier threats from Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan that Hun Sen could “take legal action against demonstrators overseas,” without providing details.
Pixabay

Participants also urged all democratic countries—and particularly those who signed the Paris Peace Accord—as well as the U.N. and other international organizations, to “continue to render their assistance and support to Cambodian citizens and those struggling for democracy in Cambodia.”

The Paris Peace Agreements ended war between Vietnam and Cambodia on Oct. 23, 1991 and led to the United Nation’s administration of Cambodia’s government while the country transitioned to a system of democratic elections.

The congress demanded that Cambodian authorities also negotiate with the European Commission to seek political solutions and divert any possible economic sanctions leveled in response to rollbacks on democracy and Hun Sen’s crackdown.

The European Union decided in February to launch a six-month monitoring period to determine whether Cambodian exports should continue to enjoy tax-free entry into the European market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

Cambodian Democrats Congress also called over the weekend for greater freedoms for NGOs and the media operating in Cambodia, as well as an electoral system that encourages fair competition from all political parties in a neutral political climate, where civil servants and security personnel remain unbiased.

The congress recommended that legislation be drafted to limit the mandate of all leaders to 10 years in office, and also called for a bill that limits the position of prime minister to two mandates, not exceeding 10 years.

The weekend’s gathering was accompanied by a candlelight demonstration on Saturday led by acting CNRP President Sam Rainsy to “liberate Cambodia’s democracy from dictator Hun Sen,” which were organized by local CNRP youth leadership and attended by some 8,000 Cambodian workers in South Korea and opposition activists from around the world.

The congress and demonstration took place despite earlier threats from Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan that Hun Sen could “take legal action against demonstrators overseas,” without providing details.

Reactions to events

Political commentator Kim Sok, who traveled from Finland to attend the events in Gwangju, told RFA’s Khmer Service that he considered the weekend a success, but said he believes some would-be participants chose not to come because they feared reprisals from Cambodia’s government.

“One drawback was the lack of courage to participate from other political parties, commentators, and civil society organizations who may have feared for their safety,” he said.

“But I believe that the congress was conducted well, both in discussion and through the resolutions it produced.”

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, told RFA that he is concerned he could be targeted after returning to Cambodia from the congress, but said he had attended in the interest of the Khmer people.

“I came here to meet with democrats who are Khmers, like me—I can’t avoid meeting with those who are struggling for democracy,” he said.

“I’m working with all crucial political parties, including the ruling party … Fear makes people become biased, so by daring to work with both the ruling party and the opposition parties, I maintain my independence and neutrality.”

money
The European Union decided in February to launch a six-month monitoring period to determine whether Cambodian exports should continue to enjoy tax-free entry into the European market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. Pixabay

A Cambodian worker living in South Korea named Ros Saroeun told RFA that her mother back home had threatened to disown her when she attended the demonstrations in Gwangju.

“I’m not a politician, but I have a strong love for my country,” she said.

Also Read: To Exploit Mothers as Labor, North Korea is Reintroducing A Policy of Offering Free Preschool
“I am working in [South Korea] and I see that their laws, living conditions, and their people are good. When I compare it to Cambodia, I don’t know how we can experience that change. We have to strive hard together for our country and our future generations … If we don’t, our country will be destroyed.”

While Cambodia’s government did not issue a statement in response to the conclusions offered by the Cambodian Democrats Congress, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan took to social media on Sunday to dismiss the candlelight demonstration as “dry and flavorless,” with “merely hundreds” in attendance. (RFA)