Incumbents are Big Campaign Funders

Who’s the biggest campaign spender in your area?
George Soros?  The Koch Brothers?
It might be your own Member of Congress!

by Frank Kirkwood

Members of Congress who live in a district where their party is dominant and the other party is very unlikely to field a competitively funded challenger, still collect large amounts of campaign money, even when they don’t have an opponent.  They spend a good bit of this money on other candidates.  Sometimes they send money directly to those candidates.  Sometimes they send it to their local, state, and/or national party or to other groups who then it is sent on to other candidates in other places.  This can be a very large amount of money.  Politicians who are leaders of reform need to commit to direct their campaign payments to candidates who have agreed to the Reform Package and not give it to candidates who are not reformers or to groups that fund candidates who are not reformers.

To get an idea of how this works and the amount of money involved, let’s take a look at two members of Congress.  Michael Doyle (D) is my Congressman in Pittsburgh and Tim Murphy (R) is the Congressman from the district south of Pittsburgh.

(Want to check your own Representative or Senator’s political spending? Here is how to start.)


Congressman Doyle

Congressman Doyle has two committees that raise and spend money. His Principal Campaign Committee is “Doyle for Congress”.  His Leadership Political Action Committee (PAC) is named “The Keystone Fund”.

In 2013-14 election cycle, Congressman Doyle was challenged in the primary election by a candidate who spent a total of $1,037.  Doyle won.  He faced no Republican challenger in the general election.

Let’s look at the Federal Election Committee reports filed by the committees and posted on the FEC website for 2013-14.  Both committees, together, raised $1,006,050 during the cycle.   Doyle for Congress and the Keystone Fund spent a total $352,800 helping to elect other candidates in other districts.

Here is the breakdown of the spending to elect other candidates by both committees together:
Payments to national, state, and local Democratic Committees = $214,900
Payments to congressional, state, and local candidates = $137,900

Total =  $352,800 spent by Congressman Doyle’s committees to elect other candidates in other districts.  Once Congressman Doyle commits to being a reform leader, it is this money that he would commit himself to give exclusively to other committed reform candidates and to groups that fund only committed reform candidates.


Congressman Murphy

Congressman Murphy has two committees that raise and spend money.  His Principal Campaign Committee is “Tim Murphy for Congress”.  His Leadership Political Action Committee (PAC) is named “Come Back Political Action Committee”.

In 2013-14 election cycle, Congressman Murphy was unopposed in the primary election and unopposed in the general election.

Let’s look at the Federal Election Committee reports filed by the committees and posted on the FEC website for 2013-14.  Murphy raised total of $1,916,960 during the cycle.  Together, Tim Murphy for Congress and the Come Back Political Action Committee spent $307,258 helping to elect other candidates in other districts.

Here is the breakdown of the spending to elect other candidates by both committees together:
Payments to national, state, and local Republican committees = $253,258
Payments to congressional, state, and local candidates = $54,000

Total = $307,258 spent by Tim Murphy’s committees to elect other candidates in other districts.  Once Congressman Murphy commits to being a reform leader, it is this money that he would commit himself to give exclusively to other committed reform candidates and to groups that fund only committed reform candidates.

Our Representatives Need to Spend this Money to Elect Reformers

Both of these members of Congress made payments of about a third of a million dollars to the campaigns of other candidates in other districts .  You will not find many other people in your district who have that kind of political spending power.

This is not an unusual pattern for incumbents in safe districts.  They are expected to raise and then pass on campaign money.  Let’s use this process to advance reform.  To reform our democracy and shift power from the few to the many, we need our representatives to be real reformers; to give money to only those candidates who are also reformers.

If your representative is making payments to candidates or groups or parties who oppose reform, then your representative is part of the problem, even if he or she claims to be part of the solution.

(Want to check your own Representative or Senator’s political spending?  Here is how to start.)