Friday, July 21, 2006

$$$ and the AG Race

Campaign finance reports were due yesterday, and most of the attention is going to the governor's race. But in a field where the candidates are largely unknown across the state, the AG race is perhaps where cash on hand is most significant.

While money can't buy you votes, it can buy you exposure.

And exposure should be a concern for all of the AG candidates this year. According to a recent Badger Poll, the only candidate known by over half of the state is the current AG Peg Lautenschlager (56%). Democrat Kathleen Falk is the next most well known with 24% name recognition, Republican Paul Bucher comes in third with 17%, and Republican JB Van Hollen is last with 7%.

The campaign finance reports filed yesterday don't tell the whole story about a candidate, but they do indicate two important points: 1) the support candidates have garnered through donations so far in the current year, and 2) the amount of cash on hand candidates have to spread their name across the state in these final months before the primary and the general elections.

Here's the campaign finance breakdown for the AG race --

Peg Lautenschlager: $245,411 in 2006, $238,639 in the bank
Kathleen Falk: $372,906 in 2006, $607,916 in the bank
JB Van Hollen: $466,250 in 2006, $417,254 in the bank
Paul Bucher: $136,111 in 2006, $85,397 in the bank

What immediately jumps out from these figures is the extremely low cash balance for Paul Bucher. Considering his campaign has already spent $180,000 to date (more than twice what he currently has in the bank) and 82% of the state still doesn't know who he is, the current campaign finance reports aren't good news for the Bucher camp.

What's more, the Bucher totals this year are only slightly better than the ones he posted last year at this time -- $107,637 raised in first half of 2005 and $80,579 cash on hand. And for the second half of 2005, the Bucher camp was able to raise nearly the same amount as the first half of this year, $125,000, but actually had more on hand at the time, $129,240, than now.

Every other candidate, conversely, dramatically increased their fundraising totals and cash on hand from both filing periods last year to the first one of this year -- Bucher is the only candidate who saw the cash balance go down from the second half of 2005 to the first half of 2006.

Perhaps that explains why Bucher missed the deadline for filing the current report (which was yesterday) and didn't file until today. As a result, the Journal-Sentinel story on the AG race finances from this morning didn't carry the paltry total from the Bucher campaign -- and by tomorrow perhaps it wouldn't be worth it for the paper and others to publish the figure in a stand-alone article.

But the Bucher team can take comfort knowing that the Van Hollen figures, while strong in appearance, mask the fact that 3/4 of what the campaign has raised this year came from Van Hollen himself. When you subtract the $350,000 Van Hollen has given to his own campaign, his total raised this year ($116,000) is actually slightly below what Bucher has raised ($136,000).

Although there's no telling how much of Bucher's own money contributed to his total raised in 2006 -- he, like all candidates, certainly isn't adverse to contributing to his own campaign. And with over $400,000 in the bank, regardless of who put it there, Van Hollen has a lot of money to introduce himself to voters over the next few months.

As for the Dems, while Lautenschlager currently has a lead on Falk in terms of name recognition (32 points), it's not nearly enough of a lead to call the primary in her favor -- especially considering the huge lead Falk currently has in fundraising and cash on hand.

All-in-all, the AG race is still up for grabs. And that's what makes each candidate's current bank account so important at this point.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul Bucher contributed no personal money to his campaign in 2006.

He raised more money than Van Hollen in 2006 and had twice as many contributors.

Van Hollen would have less cash on hand than Bucher except he is trying to buy the race by tossing in $350,000 in loans.

Period.

July 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather be in Bucher's shoes than Van Hollen's. With less than 60 days to go, Van Hollen's got a lot of work to do to get his name ID up.

I wonder if Van Hollen can afford to loan himself $350,000? Does anyone have to scoop on his wealth? Does his family have money?

July 21, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Anon 1,

Thanks for clarifying that Bucher hasn't personally donated to his campaign so far in 2006. And you're point about Bucher having more contributors than Van Hollen this year is also important.

But I hardly think that's the end of the story. The fact that Van Hollen has nearly five times as much cash on hand as Bucher is important, particularly in a race where both are fairly unknown across the state (although Van Hollen is currently less well known).

Anon 2,

I agree that Bucher is currently in a better position, but this campaign finance report keeps Van Hollen's hopes alive. If the numbers were reversed, Van Hollen would be as good as out -- but they're not.

$400,000 can buy a candidate a lot of face time -- no matter where it came from and regardless of whether it was financially feasible for Van Hollen (that's really a personal issue for him and his family to determine) -- and these last 60 days before the primary are the most important days to use it. Van Hollen will get that face time, Bucher will not (unless he gets a major influx of cash relatively quickly).

As I said at the end of the post, the race is still up for grabs on all ends -- and these reports are a large part of that, particularly for Van Hollen.

July 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for JB's money, his father is John Van Hollen, former legislator and former "northern governor" under Gov. Thompson. By profession, dad is in real estate in the lucerative Hayward market.

JB and his wife own a home in Waunakee that he bought when appointed by President Bush. It is assessed at $550,000.00. Back in his days as Ashland County DA, rumor had it that he actually lived in a huge house in Bayfield County, which is what led him to RESIGN as Ashland County DA. Then Gov. Thompson appointed him Bayfield County DA. He is wealthy, both in money and in connections. He is NOT wealthy when it comes to intellect. When did he ever win a big case? Or even lose one? He is a rich, empty suit.

July 23, 2006  

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