Despite Recession, Congressional Fundraising Remains Robust

August 1, 2012

State Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo) who is challenging incumbent Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) has raised $1.18 million, on par with his former boss, then-Congressman John Salazar, who had raised $1.2 million as of June 30, 2010.

DENVER, CO — Fundraising for Congressional candidates in Colorado is up 29% this year over the same point in the 2010 election cycle, a review by The Colorado Observer found.

In an election year defined by billionaire donors and Super PACs, Colorado Congressional candidates are raising money in much smaller amounts, but those smaller amounts add up to an impressive amount of campaign cash.

Federal campaign finance law limits donations to $2,500 per election in 2012. Primaries and general elections are considered separate elections, meaning candidates can raise up to $5,000 per cycle. In 2010, that was limited to $2,400 per election or $4,800 per cycle.

As of the end of the second fundraising quarter of 2010, Colorado Congressional candidates from the two major parties had raised $10,619,389. At the same point this year, candidates had raised $13,695,013, representing a 29% increase.

Possibly reflecting the majority Republicans now possess in the U.S. House and the Colorado House delegation, Republican Congressional candidates hold the upper hand in fundraising. GOP candidates have hauled in $7.8 million so far this cycle, compared to $5.9 million for Democratic candidates.

In 2010, that advantage was flipped, when Democrats controlled five of the seven U.S. House seats in Congress, as well as the overall majority in the U.S. House. By June 30, 2010 Democratic Congressional candidates from Colorado had raised $6.4 million compared to $4.2 million for Republicans.

This surge in Congressional fundraising is being seen across the country. Politico reported last week that “House candidates have already raised more than $566 million for the 2012 race as of the 15-month mark in the campaign, $57 million more than at the same point two years ago and more than double at the same time in 2002.”

That means that Colorado’s Congressional fundraising growth is nearly three times the national average. With three competitive Congressional races and swing state status, it’s no surprise vast amounts of money are finding their way into Colorado Congressional campaign accounts.

The biggest uptick in fundraising in comparison to 2010 is found in the campaigns of Republican Congressmen Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman. Congressman Tipton, who was a challenger in 2010, has seen his fundraising rise from about $360,000 in 2010 at this point to $1.6 million this time around. Congressman Coffman, who had a safe Republican seat in 2010 and is now in a competitive district, has gone from $720,000 in 2010 to a whopping $2.4 million in 2012.

Most of the biggest fundraisers on the Republican side of the aisle — Congressmen Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman and challenger Joe Coors Jr — are working with Republican fundraising firm The Starboard Group. All told, Starboard’s clients have pulled in a staggering $5.5 million so far this election cycle.

“Republican donors are highly motivated,” said Kristin Strohm, a Managing Partner at Starboard. “The thought of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker again has motivated our base to open their checkbooks. The current field of CO Republican candidates are working as hard and as smart as we have ever seen a group of candidates. They understand what is at stake this November.”

Democratic Congressional candidate fundraising has dropped off significantly since 2010, with the exceptions of Congressman Ed Perlmutter and State Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), who is challenging Congressman Tipton in the Third Congressional District. Perlmutter has virtually identical fundraising when compared to 2010, with $1.76 million raised at this point in 2010, and $1.78 million raised so far this year. Rep. Pace has raised $1.18 million, on par with his former boss, then-Congressman John Salazar, who had raised $1.2 million as of June 30, 2010.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) has seen the biggest drop off of all. In 2010, Democratic then-Congresswoman Betsy Markey had raised $2.2 million for her re-election race by June 30, whereas Shaffer, who is challenging Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, who defeated Markey in 2010, has pulled in a paltry $550,000 through the second quarter. That likely reflects the vastly altered district lines.

In 2010, the district was considered competitive, but since redistricting the seat is considered safely Republican after Democrats redrew Congressional District lines to imperil Congressman Coffman’s safe seat, and instead make Gardner’s a safe Republican district.

With the presidential campaigns and allied outside organizations expected to drop tens of millions of dollars on Colorado in the remaining three and half months of the campaign, Colorado’s Congressional candidates will be fighting for airtime and attention. Don’t expect them to lack for cash to garner that attention.

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