Loose Lips

Where the Money Comes From

A little bird just sent LL a pretty interesting breakdown of the current crop of campaign contributions that suggests that the District just isn't into grassroots fundraising.

As The Washington Times noted today, D.C. pols are pretty sloppy when it comes to filling out campaign reports. This makes it hard to classify different donors, which makes it hard to break down where the money comes from by industry, labor groups, etc. The best you can do with what's easily available is to break down whether donations come from a corporation or an individual (who may or may not be tied to a corporate donor). WAMU did just that and found that the percentage of corporate donors is on the rise.

But LL's clever bird came up with another way to show the influence of deep-pocketed donors in campaigns: By dividing all the donations in the current cycle by the amount given. Large donations are classified as between $400 and $500 (or $1,000) in at-large races. Medium donations are between $100 and $400. And small donations are anything under $100. (Note: These kind of breakdowns would be routine if the Office of Campaign Finance invested in a decent website.)

What's striking when you do this breakdown is the tiny percentage of overall contributions that come from small donors. Remember Barack Obama's successful small donor fundraising? Yeah, well, that ain't happening in the District.

Councilmember Vincent Orange has raised more than $100,000, but only $120 (or .11 percent of the total) came from small donors (including $20 in cash from a "John Doe"). Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who is running unopposed, has raised more than $300,000. But less than 1 percent of that total has come from small donors. Other incumbents, including At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown and Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, have similarly low numbers. Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser's raised nearly $10,000 in small donations (which is still less than 5 percent of her total take so far), but that makes her look positively Obama-esque compared to her colleagues.

And if you assume that individuals or corporations that give the maximum allowable amount (or close to it) are probably looking at these donations more like investments than civic do-gooding, the numbers really tell a story. A total of 73 percent of overall contributions fall into the "large" category, with some candidates (like Orange, again) getting virtually all their money from big donors. You can quibble with the overall assumption, and there will always be exceptions, but it's worth noting that almost every donation LL's ever seen tied to one of the city's power brokers has been at the maximum allowable amount.

Here's the chart:

[scribd id=75692772 key=key-2cch2hwg4ih3gejccz4z mode=list]

Photo by zzzack via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

  • lefty

    regular, everyday people dont have the time or $ to give to these campaigns. makes sense then that the $ comes from big donors. some of these big donors are also neighborhood people, however.

  • deedle

    Too many decimals.

  • skinsfan83

    Our taxes go to funding everything else, why not let big corporations spend a lot of their money for campaigns.

  • Chinaski

    "Our taxes go to funding everything else, why not let big corporations spend a lot of their money for campaigns."

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • Petworthian

    ^^^ Skinsfan83, seriously? Wow.

  • Truth Hurts

    You're on the right track, LL. Lemme know if you want additional spreadsheet breakdowns that identify contributions by out of state donors/registered (or not) DC voters - and by party affiliation.

    Bottom line: The great majority of dough being thrown at DC pols comes from people/businesses not even eligible to vote in DC primaries. And the current "ethics" bill gives its blessing to this pay to play scheme.

  • real lefty

    @lefty: 1. The whole problem is that regular everyday people don't have the money to give, because we've gotten poorer while the rich have become richer. And we're going to keep getting poorer as long as we let the wealthy 1% control the political process.
    2. It doesn't take much time to give money these days, it can be done with the click of a mouse in less than a minute.
    3. Big donors live in a neighborhood somewhere, yes. But when you start to dig into the reports you find that it's actually just a small group of people who are behind most of the campaign cash (and they're only your neighbors if you live in Ward 3, Montgomery County, or NoVa).

  • Ward 1 Voter

    Man oh man Evans has a lot of money. While unsurprising, it's still depressing.

  • BiteMe

    You all sound like the NBA Owners to the Players, y'all are trying to make a competitive balance between candidates for elections. No one is sending hate mail to any Presidential candidates that receive money from large corporations or a group or people, but y'all complain about this?

    So you all have seen the numbers, do you honestly think that us "common folk" who have regular paying jobs and families have enough contributions to help fund an election? Hell most of y'all don't even have the common courtesy of voting or even attending the debates.

    The fact of the matter is that its apart of the election cycle and there isn't a law banning it. Im sure raising money for an election would be a whole lot more difficult if those resources were not available.

  • skinsfan83

    @Petworthian Yes, I do not think my statement has a downside to it. Our tax dollars are used left and right for stuff, if they are public servants of the people, let them get their money from those who can afford to send it to them.

    I for one do not feel like donating to all these campaigns. So if a corporation wants to give someone 1,000 I could care less. Just make sure my kids are educated and I can live in a safe enviornment and continue working hard to support my family. Everything else is petty to me right now as far as candidates receiving donations

  • You All Are Dumb

    I should listen to the advice of my elders who say that when you argue with an idiot no one can tell you apart, but I just can resist. You all talk about how tax dollars fund this and and that, well first of all the majority of tax dollars in this city comes from Wards 2 & 3 and the business community who if you all would venture to look are the same folks who fund campaigns. So if it is about tax dollars they pay the most so shouldn't they have the most say? I mean funny enough they also vote in the highest percentages.

    As for the dumb ass lefty and super lefty, you all don't talk about all the free work and funds that labor gives candidates and for that matter ever noticed how the folks who are under investigation in this city or have criminal issues are the lefties. Barry, Alexander, Graham, Thomas and Michael Brown. All supported by big labor and lefty groups, all supported by free campaign workers and the likes. Let us not forget Mayor Gray. The only saving grace you all have is Phil.

    Now look at the big money, big business candidates namely Catania, Evans, Cheh, Bowser and Orange (for the short time he has been on the Council) they are the most active, they introduced and pass the most legislation and they for the most part are never in trouble for stupid shit.

    Maybe the problem is that you lefty folks are giving to and supporting candidates of ill repute. I mean, by looking at these folks who are so bad they are in bed with lefties and the rest of us city residents keep on waking up with fleas.

  • five to go

    Outside money helped to undermind the WTU. Rhee would never had been able to do the damage she did without outside money. This city is for sale. We the citizens need to throw out every bum on the city council, because they helped to undermind their own citizens, and make living here harder every year. They nickle and bag tax us to death.