Money rolls in for candidates
By Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont press bureau | July 17,2012
MONTPELIER — A major filing deadline Monday exposed the sharp divide between the haves and the have-nots as candidates for political office opened the lid on their campaign war chests.
In the first campaign-finance disclosure since last summer, Gov. Peter Shumlin cemented his front-runner status by raising nearly $680,000 for his re-election effort.
Republican challenger Randy Brock isn’t far behind with $529,000, but his total includes a $300,000 personal loan from his own checking account. And Brock’s campaign expenditures — he dropped more than $100,000 on a late-May ad blitz — far exceed Shumlin’s, leaving the first-term incumbent with a considerable advantage in the all-important “cash-on-hand.”
As of Monday, the Shumlin campaign had $625,000 in the bank, compared to only $247,000 for Brock, whose campaign to date has spent a total of more than $280,000.
“I think Randy Brock is probably disappointed he wasn’t able to raise more money from sources other than himself,” said Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College. “If he really wants to be competitive with Shumlin, then he has to either ramp up fund-raising from outside sources or put another six-figure contribution into his own campaign.”
Brock said his personal investment underscores the strength of his conviction in his own candidacy. He noted that Shumlin spent a comparable sum on his inaugural gubernatorial bid in 2010.
“I’m just trying to make sure the playing field is level, and that this is a serious and credible race,” Brock said Monday. “One of the things that candidates like myself have to do, as Peter Shumlin did, is show we’re willing to invest in our own campaigns.”
Shumlin’s sizeable war chest comes courtesy of a relatively small number of people, including many from outside Vermont.
About two-thirds of Shumlin’s total derives from the 232 donors that gave more than $1,000; about half comes from donations of $2,000 — the maximum allowable contribution from individuals and businesses.
Brock didn’t have a single individual donation of more than $1,000.
Shumlin also fared well with political action committees, at least five of which contributed the $6,000 they’re permitted to give under Vermont campaign finance laws.
The money includes $12,000 from two political-action committees run by the Service Employees International Union, which recently announced plans to run pro-single-payer ads this summer and fall. The group will also be seeking Shumlin’s support for legislation next year that would enable the unionization of about 5,000 home-care workers.
Shumlin’s tally was also aided by friends from outside the state, who collectively contributed nearly $230,000 to the governor’s re-election campaign. From a non-emergency medical transportation outfit in Atlanta, Ga., (LogistiCare Solutions) to a Rent-a-Center in Plano, Texas, several out-of-state businesses gave the $2,000 maximum to Shumlin.
The financial inequity wasn’t unique to the race for governor.
Round One of the fund-raising battle in the Democratic primary for attorney general went to challenger TJ Donovan, who has raised $129,709 in his bid to unseat seven-term incumbent Bill Sorrell.
The Donovan campaign celebrated the six-figure sum in a press release fired off to news outlets that said the numbers “tell a story.”
“Vermonters are ready for a change,” the release said. “After 15 years, it’s time for new leadership.”
Sorrell has raised just more than $92,000. Both campaigns have spent just under $40,000 to date, meaning Donovan has a nearly three-to-two cash-on-hand advantage.
Sorrell’s campaign sought to put a positive spin on the report.
“We have raised more money during this reporting period than all my previous campaigns combined.” Sorrell said in a written statement.
But Donovan’s edge on the fund-raising front marks the latest surge from a candidate who, according to a poll conducted in mid-May, once trailed Sorrell by 26 percentage points.
Donovan has since won a slew of endorsements from organized labor, including nods from state employees, troopers, firefighters and the AFL-CIO.
“There’s no question that TJ has mobilized a much more effective campaign than I think any of us anticipated he would running against a long-term incumbent like Bill Sorrell,” said Garrison Nelson, professor of political science at the University of Vermont. “I think in some ways Bill Sorrell was late getting started, and I don’t think he really anticipated TJ would make this kind of impact on the race.”
As a percentage of total amounts raised, the races for treasurer and auditor feature the greatest financial disparities.
In the contest for treasurer, Democratic incumbent Beth Pearce raised $84,000 compared to less than $16,000 for Republican challenger Wendy Wilton.
“The strong show of enthusiasm for Beth’s campaign demonstrates the bipartisan support (she) is assembling,” Sam Winship, general consultant for the Pearce campaign, said in a statement.
Wilton said she expected high totals from Pearce, and said she would be ramping up her own fund-raising apparatus in the coming weeks.
“I am totally unsurprised,” Wilton said. “Beth has been raising money since last summer, so if I’d had a whole year to raise money I’d probably have $80,000, too.”
In the race for the open auditor’s seat, Republican Vince Illuzzi has a more than five-to-one money edge over Democrat Doug Hoffer, though the two have raised similar amounts from individual donors.
Illuzzi’s $56,000 includes a $25,000 personal loan and $17,000 in carry-forward from his Vermont Senate campaign. Hoffer has raised slightly more than $10,000, money he said he’ll use to build name recognition with Vermonters. Hoffer lost his 2010 bid for the post to incumbent Tom Salmon, but got more than 100,000 votes that year.
In the race for lieutenant governor, Republican incumbent Phil Scott raised about $31,000, a sum he said is “appropriate” for the race.
His newly minted Democratic challenger, Cassandra Gekas, has raised a little more than $7,500 since entering the race last month, Now that she has her website, campaign manager and field director in place, she said, she’ll be able to dedicate more time to raising the money she’ll need to unseat the popular incumbent.
“I’ll be able to all my time over the next quarter on the ground talking to Vermonters, and bringing money in the door that we need to bring in,” she said.