Friday, February 10, 2006

8th Congressional Candidates Digging A Lot Into Own Pockets

Pioneer Press
Cristel Mohrman

When it comes to financing 8th Congressional campaigns, the Republican primary candidates who received and spent the most money in 2005 did so largely out of their own pocketbooks.

Four of the six candidates self-funded at least 61 percent of their campaign budgets, which last quarter ranged from $36,220 to more than $1.4 million, according to year-end data filed last week with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

A seventh candidate announced last week she would exit the race. Teresa Bartels poured $80,000 of her own money into the race before citing an inability to keep up with her opponents' much larger budgets.

According to the FEC, David McSweeney had received more than $1.4 million in campaign contributions, including a personal loan of $997,985 and a personal contribution of $498.

"That's my own money. I can't be bought."

"I want to run a first-rate campaign because I want to take the seat back from Melissa Bean," McSweeney said.

He also collected $440,242 in individual contributions, and $21,500 in contributions from political action committees (PACs) and other non-party groups.

The PACs of Clark Consulting and Duchossois Industries Inc. were among his largest supporters, with contributions last June of $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.

"I'm very proud of the fact that I've generated more in individual contributions than any other Republican challenger in the nation," said McSweeney, who said he makes phone calls on behalf of his campaign every morning.

At the close of the quarter, McSweeney reported that he had spent $949,815, had $513,920 cash on hand and more than $1.6 million in campaign debt.

McSweeney's large personal campaign investment triggered a provision to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act called the Millionaires' Amendment. Under the amendment, if any House candidate spends more than $350,000, his opponents can receive larger individual contributions.

Without the amendment, which went into effect for the 8th District's primary race Dec. 31, individual contributions cannot exceed $2,100. The Millionaires' Amendment allows McSweeney's opponents to now collect up to $6,300 per individual donor.

McSweeney's total income placed him about $1 million ahead of Kathy Salvi, the candidate with the next highest campaign total. Salvi had collected $471,915 by the end of the year.

That includes a personal loan of $285,000 and personal contribution of $4,200.

"In order to run a modern, effective campaign, you have to communicate in as many media as possible, and it's very expensive," she said of her own investment.

She said she will continue to raise funds, and will supplement her campaign with additional personal funds "as needed."

"I'm not going to spend just to keep up with the Joneses," she said.

Salvi, who also received $182,655 from individual donors, ended the quarter with $283,852 cash on hand and just more than $292,000 in campaign debt.

State Rep. Robert Churchill had received a total of $132,762 at year's end, according to the Federal Election Commission. The receipts include a personal loan of $98,000, $29,537 in individual contributions and $3,125 in committee contributions.

He reported ending 2005 with $95,714 in cash and $98,000 in debt.

Campaign chairman Bill Burns explained that Churchill's campaign was largely self-funded at year's end because the candidate got off to a late start in the 8th District race.

Burns said he expects the campaign to receive more contributions from outside sources in 2006.

"Mr. Churchill isn't going to finance this whole campaign himself," Burns said.

Neither is Aaron Lincoln, based on filings with the FEC. Lincoln reported contributing $1,000 of the total $14,596 he received in 2005.

The remaining contributions were made solely by individual supporters.

Lincoln ended the year with $9,446 cash on hand and no campaign debt.

Challenger Ken Arnold, meanwhile, contributed $30,000 of his fourth quarter income, which totaled $36,220. He received the remaining $6,220 from individual contributions.

He reported spending $21,700 last quarter, leaving $14,510 in his campaign fund. He reported no loans or debt.

James Creighton Mitchell said from the start he would not run a financially driven campaign.

He said his own contribution will remain below the $5,000 required for FEC filing and he is not accepting outside contributions.

Though she ended 2005 as the race's third-highest fund-raiser, Bartels said last week she was unwilling to continue to invest large amounts of her own money in the race. Instead, she said she will campaign on Salvi's behalf.

Including her personal contribution, Bartels' had collected $461,179 by the end of the year. She reported spending $361,024, having $100,154 on hand and nearly $85,000 in campaign debt.

Bartels' overall 2005 campaign income was comparable to that of Salvi, but the majority was comprised of $377,479 in individual contributions.

"I was very proud of that. We raised a lot of money from individuals. But when you look at the whole race, it's just something that we aren't going to be able to compete with," Bartels said.

The winner of the March 21 primary election will race Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean in the November general election.

According to Federal Election Commission data, Bean had collected nearly $1.8 million by the end of 2005, including more than $1.1 million in individual contributions. She ended the year with just more than $35,000 in debt and nearly $1.4 million in cash.

Bean and her Republican challenger are also expected to face independent candidate Bill Scheurer, whose fourth quarter filings show $10,300 in income, $202 in expenditures and no campaign debt.