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Morning Fix: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of FEC Reports

Cold, hard cash. Photo from

The Fix has had Oct. 15 circled on our calendar for some time. Why? It's the day all candidates for federal office are required to report how much they raised and spent over the past three months.

(Are we aware of how dorky the above paragraph sounds? You bet. Long ago we decided to embrace our political nerd-dom.)

Money isn't the only thing in politics but a demonstrated ability to either convince other people to invest in your campaign or put your own money behind a bid is a significant measure of viability.

We've sorted through the preliminary returns and checked in with some money mavens in each party to determine the good, the bad and the outright ugly in the third quarter fundraising reports.

As all the reports pour in over the next few days, we'll do our best to keep Fixistas on who's up and who's down in the money chase.

The Good

Arlen Specter: Specter's recipe for successful campaigns -- whether he is a Republican or a Democrat -- doesn't change. He raises and stockpiles vast sums of money and uses that cash in an all-out assault on his opponent. Specter raked in another $1.8 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 and ended last month with a whopping $8.71 million on hand.

Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio: Yes, Crist, the governor of Florida and Rubio, the former speaker of the state House, are running against one another in the Republican primary for the open seat vacated by former senator Mel Martinez (R). And, yes, they both have reason to feel good about their cash take over the past three months. After raising, a dismal $350,000 over the summer, Rubio bounced back to bring in nearly $1 million in the third quarter -- a sum that will ensure that national conservatives will continue to talk about this race as a fight for the heart and soul of the GOP. Crist, who is without question the best fundraiser of any non-incumbent candidate for the Senate, raised $2.4 million between July 1 and Sept. 30, bringing his total amount collected in the contest to a stunning $7 million.

Steve Pearce: The New Mexico Republican raised better than $500,000 in his bid to reclaim the 2nd district he held from 2002 to 2006. While Pearce's run for Senate last November and his service in Congress gave him a leg up on the average House challenger, half a million dollars raised is a very impressive sum. Rep. Harry Teague (D), of course, is a self funder and can almost certainly match Pearce's total with the stroke of a pen.

Alex Sink: Sink, who is Florida's Chief Financial Officer, delivered on the high expectations surrounding her bid for governor by raising more than $1.6 million in the past three months. Sink's opponent -- state Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) -- seemed to try to get too cute by half with his own cash numbers but ultimately had to acknowledge he raised roughly half as much in the same period.

Joe Wilson: Who would have thought yelling "You lie!" at President Obama during a nationally televised address would be the key to a massive fundraising quarter for the South Carolina Republican? (Not us.) Wilson collected $2.7 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 and ended the month with $2.6 million in the bank -- more than enough to fend off Democrat Rob Miller next year.

Bill White: The mayor of Houston, White raised $1.1 million -- and donated another $400,000 from his personal bank account -- to his Senate bid. White, a Democrat, has now collected more than $6 million for a race that doesn't yet exist as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) continues to hedge on when she will resign to focus full-time on her primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry.

The Bad

Chris Dodd: The Connecticut senator's allies note that the $900,000 he raised in the third quarter should come with an asterisk as he canceled a number of events to undergo surgery for prostate cancer and deal with the death of his close friend Ted Kennedy. All true. But, it doesn't change the fact that Republicans have already seized on the fact that former representative Rob Simmons (R) outraised Dodd as a sign of the Connecticut Democrat's weakness. Dodd can correct that perception with a strong final quarter of the year but, for now, $900,000 -- whatever the reason -- isn't good enough.

Bil Ritter: A sitting governor who is running for reelection should never -- we repeat, never -- get outraised by a challenger. Yet, that's exactly what happened in Colorado where Ritter, the Democratic incumbent, raised $452,000 and former representative Scott McInnis (R) brought in $549,000. Even state Sen. Josh Penry (R), who has never run statewide before, nearly equaled Ritter's total by raising $416,000.

The Ugly

Jodi Rell: The Connecticut governor collected just under $15,000 for her reelection bid, a staggeringly low total that is already fueling speculation that she will not run again in 2010. If she does retire, this is a terrific pickup opportunity for Democrats with Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz the favorites.

Vic Snyder: The Arkansas Democratic congressman collected a total of $0 in the past three months. Now, Snyder never raises money in an off year and has consistently won reelection despite that stance. But, he has also never faced someone like former U.S. attorney Tim Griffin (R) before. Griffin is very well connected in Washington and raised $130,000 in just 10 days of active cash collecting.

Thursday's Fix Picks:

1. Sarah Palin's new political(?) venture.
2. What Olympia Snowe got for her vote.
3. Ax meets with Lexi.
4. A theory on why Wexler resigned.
5. RIP: Captain Lou Albano (and his rubber bands).

Toomey, Specter in Dead Heat: A new poll in the Pennsylvania Senate race shows Sen. Arlen Specter (D) and former representative Pat Toomey (R) in a dead heat. The survey, which was conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research, showed Specter with 42 percent to 41 percent for Toomey. Other numbers in the data were more troubling for Specter as nearly six in ten voters (59 percent) said it was time to give someone else a chance while 31 percent said they believed Specter deserved another term in office. The good news in the poll for Specter? He led Rep. Joe Sestak (D) 44 percent to 16 percent in a hypothetical primary matchup.

In the Annals of Bad Press Releases. . .: Speaking of Sestak, his campaign put out one of the more bizarre press releases in recent Fix memory on Wednesday. The release touted an endorsement from "one of the few Democratic candidates to successfully challenge his party" and even included a quote from this person touting Sestak's willingness to take on the political establishment. And yet, the mystery endorser was never named. Guess you have to tune in next Monday on Independence Mall for the big reveal. (Apparently, the mystery man is Ned Lamont who knocked off Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in a 2006 Democratic primary.)

Click It!: Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) explains to MSNBC's Chris Matthews her thinking on the health care bill.

Sen. Vilsack?: Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack (D) set off a round of furious speculation Wednesday when she told a local television station that she was "well qualified" to run for office in 2010 against Sen. Chuck Grassley (R). Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is widely regarded in Iowa as a political powerhouse in her own right but, according to knowledgeable Hawkeye State Democrats, isn't likely to run. Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin , who has significant personal wealth, is seriously looking at the race and Rep. Bruce Braley is reconsidering his past decision not to run, according to one informed Democrat. It's not clear whether Grassley is truly vulnerable. Democrats tout a Des Moines Register poll that showed the Republican's job approval dropping from 75 percent in January to 57 percent in September as evidence that he is vulnerable but given Grassley's record of electoral success in the state we are still skeptical.

Say What?: "I have absolutely no interest in running for president again. None. None." -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, leaving no wiggle room about the possibility of a second presidential candidacy, in an interview with ABC's "Nightline."

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 15, 2009; 5:20 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Reids and the Dangers of Dynastic Politics
Next: Beau Biden's Coming-Out Party


rowens said
Is might be curtailing free speech to tax the SPENDING of campaign money, but it surely would not be unconstitutional to tax it when it is collected. Note much of this becomes "war chest"...

This might be the BEST idea I have heard all day. Everybody gets to make it rain on their favorite politician (go ahead and testify!) but it is all drawn down for the public good at a flat rate.

One candidate gets ten dollars in free speech, candidate gets a ten cents tax bill. Another gets $10m in speech, you get the picture.

Posted by: shrink2 | October 15, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Regarding my earlier post ("How about 5% State and 10% federal tax on ALL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS?")

To the response that it 'may not be legal as SCOTUS ruled campaign money to be speech':

Is might be curtailing free speech to tax the SPENDING of campaign money, but it surely would not be unconstitutional to tax it when it is collected. Note much of this becomes "war chest"...

Work with me here - Let's promote the idea - 5% State and 10% federal tax on ALL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS - to be dediucated to education.

It will fly like an eagle! Voters can see a good idea a mile away.

Posted by: rowens1 | October 15, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Instead of commenting on Campaign contributions and Fix News I would simply like to ask a Question. All week I've heard about President Obama's upcoming trip to New Orleans (First Trip headlines everywhere) and his snubing of the Gulf of the Gulf Coast region overall. Why is that he is the first and only person to point that his administration has made 18-trips and administration officials have made 35-trips to the Gulf Coast Region since March?

Posted by: mcgeenate | October 15, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I see nothing in these reports about Fox News in-kind donations. I smell AUDIT!

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | October 15, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

"But predicting unemployment in mid 2010 to be down is really "iffy"."

Read an interesting blog post today suggesting the magnificent strategery (wink) of Obama in back loading the stimulus spending. I can't testify to the facts of the spending schedule, but the post's argument was that, while Obama was criticized for back loading the spending, the political wisdom may become apparent when stimulus jobs and spending peak in 2010. Interesting to ponder.

Posted by: nodebris | October 15, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

There were a few surprises in terms of fundraising this quarter. I was surprised with Marco Rubio, Bill White, Chris Dodd & Joe Wilson. Wow, $2.4 million in a quarter for a US Congressman in a safe Republican district in South Carolina! With that type of fundraising, Wilson may want to become the recruiter & fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Houston Mayor Bill White is doing well in his campaign to become the next US Senator from Texas. The odds are against him, but his fundraising totals are impressive, noone can deny. Dodd badly needed a good fundraising quarter, and I'm really surprised he didn't get it. I think he is in deep trouble, especially if Foley or McMahon is the R nominee. They will have endless money, especially McMahon. It was Marco Rubio's last chance to raise enough money to stay viable in the race, and he did it. However, he has been heavily outraised by Crist and with Crist's name ID and popularity all across Florida, Crist is still the overwhelming favorite. But Rubio certainly keeps himself in the race. With the Bush people behind him, I think his chances are still alive, especially if Jeb Bush actually steps forward and endorses Rubio. Now, Jodi Rell's fundraising is surprising. She is so popular in Conn. though, I don't know if she can be beaten if she wants to run. Snarlin' Arlen is still up in any race he faces, and is really still the favorite to win the primary & GE.

Posted by: reason5 | October 15, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Re Steve Pearce: he, too, can bankroll his own campaign with the stroke of a pen, but chose not to during his Senate run. The man has a lot of dough, though.

Posted by: DClark1032 | October 15, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Glad I stopped by the comments section today. Thanks all for a slew of reasoned posts.

I'll reserve judgment on Sestak until he actually starts campaigning. I think it is still too early for the real race to begin --- although it is snowing here in central PA right now.

Posted by: mnteng | October 15, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

You see that picture up there?

Those Ben Franklins are not on the stage of a strip club after Pacman Jones made it rain.

That is a pile of speech.

Posted by: shrink2 | October 15, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Maybe an attorney can clarify, but it has been my understanding that the SCOTUS ruled campaign contributions to be speech, as in the First Amendment. I wonder if taxing speech would be constitutional.

Posted by: shrink2 | October 15, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I think that would be a great idea. Especially if those taxes went to something like education.

Posted by: AndyR3 | October 15, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

It sure keeps coming up in my mind: We should be TAXING campaign contributions at the State and Federal level. These vast amounts of disposable income and lobby money do not improve our democracy, and may in fact be undermining the very definition of "constituent".

How about 5% State and 10% federal tax on ALL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS?

Sounds good to me.

Posted by: rowens1 | October 15, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

ATTENTION REP. MURTHA (Staff, Please Forward):




Access to health care doesn't help untold thousands of unjustly targeted Americans damaged by the devastating physiological effects of being silently irradiated by microwave and laser radiation "directed energy weapons"...

...the weaponization of the electromagnetic spectrum, a silent "final solution" that may have the nation's political leadership in its ideological cross-hairs.

This technology is capable of altering moods, emotions, inducing fatigue, weakness, exhaustion, confusion, life-altering injury, disease and a slow-kill death.

And key elements of the Obama administration -- chief among them the defense/security/intel establishment -- are proliferating these technologies by various modalities -- reportedly, from hand-held weaponry to satellite and terrestrial cell tower based delivery systems.

American citizens and families targeted by this covert torture matrix also are subject to financial sabotage that decimates their livelihoods and financial resources...

...and relentless "community stalking" -- harassment, surreptitious home entries and vandalism by government-enabled vigilantes affiliated with federally-funded community policing and anti-terrorism organizations.

Warrantless, covert placement of GPS tracking devices and misuse of cell phone technology to hunt down the unjustly targeted enables this grassroots terrorism.

But the Obama administration continues to allow these warrantless intrusions into the lives of unjustly targeted American families.

The bureaucratic saboteurs and Dr. Strangeloves behind these multi-agency crimes against humanity and the Constitution must be removed from power, immediately, before this silent genocide claims more victims -- endangering the Obama presidency while making a mockery of the rule of law.

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled): RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | October 15, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

To margaretmeyers,

It's rare that I criticise CC, even indirectly--he gets quite enough criticism for being nonpartisan--but your comment on Sestak's difficulty in getting his campaign in gear is the sort of thing I would have expected to see written by Chris, not one of the commentators to this blog.

Chris, if you're listening (reading), this is the type of insightful update we look to you for. Not just who's up/who's down, but WHY.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | October 15, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Well the problem with George Will's hook,

[September's 9.8 percent unemployment rate was the worst since June 1983. But robust growth began then, and just 17 months later Ronald Reagan came within 3,800 Minnesota votes of carrying all 50 states. Reagan, however, was reducing government's burdens -- taxes, regulations -- on the economy. Obama is increasing them.]

is that Obama has until 2012 and he is writing about 2010. If Obama were running next year, he would be in deep trouble.

But there is no Republican leader, nor leadership (as Andy said) and America is very different than it was in the post Vietnam miasma that bred Reagan's revisionism. I wonder if Will's nostalgia is as painful to him as it is to his readers?

Posted by: shrink2 | October 15, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Margaret.

Andy, I have always thought your arithmetic for predicting was correct: unemployment up = party in power down, and vice versa. But predicting unemployment in mid 2010 to be down is really "iffy".

Posted by: mark_in_austin | October 15, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I think George Will needs to look at the NY-23 and the grudge match that is happening up there in GOP race. The only way that a wave happens in 2010 is if unemployment is still above 9% (not likely) come august, AND if the GOP has a clear message and leader. Right now there is no leader in the GOP and they have nothing even close to a clear message. Plus once the Senate passes a healthcare bill then Obama and Democrats numbers will jump up.
My prediction is that the GOP loses seats in the senate and gains a few in the House.

Posted by: AndyR3 | October 15, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I think George Will needs to look at the NY-23 and the grudge match that is happening up there in GOP race. The only way that a wave happens in 2010 is if unemployment is still above 9% (not likely) come august, AND if the GOP has a clear message and leader. Right now there is no leader in the GOP and they have nothing even close to a clear message. Plus once the Senate passes a healthcare bill then Obama and Democrats numbers will jump up.
My prediction is that the GOP loses seats in the senate and gains a few in the House.

Posted by: AndyR3 | October 15, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Don't mean to threadjack, but as much as Sarah Palin's antics fascinate us, something pretty interesting happened yesterday.

The BBC announced (I heard it while listening to their broadcast and was amazed) Obama had already communicated to Gordon Brown his decision to send the 40,000 more to Afghanistan. But when asked, Gibbs said, "I think that you can assume that the BBC will not be the first outlet for such a decision."


Posted by: shrink2 | October 15, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Today George Will displays superficial interest in what The Fix crowd has been chewing on for months.

Gee, you mean 2010 is going to be contested? It turns out Goldman Sachs executives declaring the recession over does not mean everybody is going to vote for the Democrats.

I wonder if George called up Chris to produce the column, it all looks so familiar.

Posted by: shrink2 | October 15, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Margaret, that was very informative.

Posted by: AndyR3 | October 15, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

I think Toomey is benefitting from the fact that Specter is focused on his primary right now. I would expect that once he turns his multimillion dollar gaze on Toomey he will wither in a matter of two weeks. As head of the CFG he made alot of very inflammatory speaches and Specter will use those like a club against him.

Jodi Rell, one more New England republican gone. Pretty soon we will have to use fossil records when discussing GOPers in Northeast

Posted by: AndyR3 | October 15, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

I live in a district that borders Sestak's district, so you think I would be hearing about his campaign -- but I'm not.

Sestak is not a career politician, in fact he's really new to politics. He was able to overtake a 20 year congressman, Curt Weldon, who had grown complacent and sloppy. That isn't as hard a task as you might think, especially when you have the aid of an FBI raid right before the election. Congressional districts are small and you can put together an effective team quickly with the support of the local Democratic party organization. And Sestak was a great candidtae: military service, executive experience, truly a liberal.

That was 2006. In 2009, he has to run a statewide campaign, which is harder to organize, especially w/o the backing of the state party organization, which will line-up with Rendell and Obama behind Specter. This campaign will require much more money, which Sestak may be able to get from Move On and other more livberal parts of the Democratic party who don't trust Specter. Specter is a very different opponent than Weldon -- Specter has been at this all his life and he knows how to make it happen.

My gut feeling is that when Sestak announced, he didn't know how hard it was going to be to convert his local win to a statewide win. He is very new to the game and may not be able to pick-up his pace to meet Specter's pace.

I feel that Sestak is already doing something important in that his running has forced Specter to be a better Democrat. I wish Sestak had stayed put, as a very junior congressman. He could have become a leader in the House, as it is we have to defend a seat that has only been in Democratic hands for not yet 2 cycles.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | October 15, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Margaret, is Sestak off to a slow start or is he a weak campaigner? From here he looked like a "rising" star, to abuse CC's metaphor.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | October 15, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Re Wexler: a local news web page had this headline this morning "Congressman says 'I've felt like a pansy.'" I thought it was going to be Wexler in his "hookers and cocaine" joking mode explaining why he was leaving Congress. Nope. It was Congressman Jeff "stripped to the waist" Flake explaining why he spent a week on a deserted Island.

That's exactly what my gay friends say when they head to Key West!

Posted by: margaretmeyers | October 15, 2009 6:38 AM | Report abuse

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