How do all of those political ads show up on your TV screen and all of those mailers arrive in your mailbox?
Money, of course, and plenty of it. But cash gets into the hands of candidates, political parties and outside groups in many different ways.
Here’s one way you might not have thought much about.
We’ll use Rep. Tim Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican, as an example. Moore is a powerful member of the 120-member state House. As House Rules committee chairman under Republican leadership, he helps guide the flow of certain legislation through the chamber. He’s also mentioned as a possible candidate for House speaker during the 2015-16 legislative session.
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Because of his position, he’s a prime target for individual donors and political action committees who want to give their money wisely to lawmakers who can make a difference in how legislation of interest to them turns out. For obvious reasons, the party in power always has an easier time bringing in cash. There’s nothing unusual about that.
Moore is an attorney and apparently a good fundraiser. From the start of 2013 through Oct. 13, his campaign raised about $436,000. Since Oct. 18, it reported additional donations of $21,000 from the political arms of such companies as Smithfield Foods, Waste Management and Norfolk Southern.
But Moore didn’t need a dime of that money for himself. He was unopposed this election season, and contributors knew that.
Instead, Moore spread the wealth to other Republican House candidates. Some needed it because of strong competition; other didn’t have the ability to raise large amounts of cash or wealthy friends to back their campaigns. This election cycle, Moore’s campaign gave maximum $5,000 donations to at least 18 Republican House candidates, as well as smaller amounts to others. Reports show he also contributed at least $140,000 to the House Republican Caucus, which used the money to help its members with mailers, TV ads and other expenses.
In all, Moore’s reports indicate he gave more than $250,000 to other candidates and political committees this election cycle. That number will grow when final reports come in later this year.
Other GOP House and Senate members with little or no competition in this year’s elections did the same – raising money and handing it off to friends in more competitive districts or to the caucus. Senate leader Phil Berger of Eden raised nearly $2 million this election cycle and gave $870,000 to the Senate Republican Caucus. Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican, gave more than $450,000 to the same caucus.
That money then was used on TV, radio, newspaper and Web ads, mailers and other campaign activities, giving Republican candidates needed firepower in contested districts.
And that is one way the party in power tends to stay in power in Raleigh.
Democrats do it too but to a lesser extent because they have far fewer dollars to go around, a function of fewer members of the General Assembly and more difficulty raising money.
Money flows to power, and Democrats don’t have much of that right now.
Patrick Gannon is a syndicate columnist who writes about state government and politics.