A flurry of campaign spending reports landed in Raleigh over the past 10 or so days, detailing the first half of the year with an array of receipts, expenses, contributions, loans. National candidate reports hit in Washington as well.
Candidate reports are only a part of the picture, of course, with the way money works in politics these days. Much comes from outside groups.
Still, the numbers are yardsticks and portholes into how the campaigns are faring – or not.
And they generate lots of political chatter, spinning out questions:
News item: Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, raised $2.2 million, giving himself $3 million on hand headed into what is expected to be a contest with Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican. McCrory raised less, $1.3 million, and has $2.4 million on hand.
The spin: Cooper and Democrats were happy. McCrory and Republicans said they were just getting started and/or Cooper raised a bunch from “liberal trial lawyers.”
The questions: With no serious Democratic Senate candidate now announced as a challenger to U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, did Cooper get an unexpected boost? Will a Senate candidate alter Cooper’s money flow? Or, did the reports reveal an underway strategy by Democrats to focus more of their money on the governor’s race in the state?
News item: McCrory was among the seven current governors who attended a California conference of donors in the network of billionaires Charles and David Koch.
The spin: Democrats like to try to paint the Kochs as a symbol of what they view as wrong with big-money influence. Republicans court the network.
The questions: McCrory’s presence is a reminder that, while behind, he has plenty of time – and ways – to catch up. Two key fundraisers, Art Pope and Aldona Wos, are no longer in his Cabinet. Expect a campaign ad on the Kochs and McCrory.
News item: The Democratic Party out-raised the Republican Party in the first half of the year, $632,000 to $574,000.
The spin: New Democratic Party chairwoman Patsy Keever has said fundraising would be a priority, and Democrats say it showed. Republicans have just made a change at the top and have plenty of fundraising prowess outside the party channel.
The questions: Are we seeing the ceiling for Democrats and the floor for Republicans? Or, will new GOP chairman Hasan Harnett, who was not favored by the establishment Republicans in the state, struggle on the fundraising circuit? A reminder is in order: The two Republicans in charge at the legislature – Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore – raised a combined $1 million.
News item: Fewer than 400 families are responsible for almost half the money raised so far in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a deep analysis by The New York Times. Julian Robertson, a hedge fund founder with strong North Carolina ties, made the list after giving more than $1 million to Jeb Bush.
The spin: Former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, whose campaign was part of the costliest on record, lamented the role of big money in politics last week. “To think that we’ve got to put up with this till next November is absurd,” said Hagan, who recently taught a class on money in politics at Harvard University. “We have got to get the obscene money out of politics, and I think that would change politics.”
The questions: Given U.S. Supreme Court and lower court decisions, could the money arms race change? Is that what elected officials even want? Michael J. Malbin, president of the Campaign Finance Institute, which tracks the flow of campaign money, asked: “The question is whether we are in a new Gilded Age or well beyond it — to a Platinum Age.”
Beer, wine money fills big cups
Industry has fared well in this year’s session
The beer and wine distribution sector poured strong support for legislative brass in the first half of 2015, according to campaign finance reports released last week.
The industry, employing thousands of North Carolinians and organized by a statewide association, has fared well this session, with certain bills that could have hurt the industry’s bottom line shut down in legislative committees.
One of those bills would have allowed some craft beer makers to distribute more of their own products, without having to go through wholesalers, a change the latter industry fought. But a lobbyist for the sector says the wholesalers — who gave at least $76,000 by midyear to House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger together — are showing appreciation for an arrayed business focus from the legislature.
“We’re not a single-issue organization,” said Tim Kent, executive director of the N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, noting tax reform and changes in unemployment insurance among areas important to the group. A number of contributors to both campaigns have given similar amounts in the past.
Moore’s share of the beer and wine wholesalers’ contributions, more than $46,000, represented about 11 percent of his total fundraising, according to the latest reports. Berger accumulated nearly $30,000, or about 4.6 percent, from the group. The reports showed donations, mostly in January, from roughly 30 individuals listed as owners or officers of beverage distributing companies.
The totals include $2,500 that the N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association PAC contributed to each of the leaders. Distributors are viewed as a quality and safety controller for beer and wine, storing products in warehouses, trucking them to stores for consumers to purchase and quickly recalling any for health or safety concerns.
By state law, only breweries that produce fewer than 25,000 barrels per year can self-distribute, ensuring business for the wholesalers. And that has put some craft breweries at odds with the wholesale sector.
Benjamin Brown of The Insider