Zinke’s “Fake” Fundraising

There’s an interesting article up on Daily Kos this week that highlights Marco Rubio’s “fake fundraising” tactic – comparing the candidate to Montana GOPer Ryan Zinke.

“Are you a Republican congressional candidate who wants to look like a fantastic fundraiser without actually doing any of that pesky fundraising?” writes Jeff Singer. If so, the article continues, just do like Zinke does.

Apparently, candidates like Rubio and Zinke have been able to take advantage of how superficially some news outlets report fundraising (to give the impression that they are raking in cash through direct mail appeals), when what never gets reported is that the campaigns in this scheme net very little – indeed, they can even lose money.

During the final three months of 2015, Zinke raised a monster $577,000 but he spent $597,000, leaving him with slightly less money in the bank than he had three months before.

Candidates often count on the fact that some news stories only report how much a campaign raised in a given quarter, without telling us that the candidate, in this case Zinke, actually lost ground. The article goes on to note that even though Zinke is an incumbent in a traditionally red state at the presidential level, Juneau can pull off a win in Montana:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau raised $262,000 during her first quarter in the race, and unlike Zinke, she kept most of it. Juneau trails Zinke $744,000 to $240,000, which isn’t bad for this early in the race. Montana went for Romney 55-42 but the state still elects Democrats to downballot offices (Democratic Sen. Jon Tester won a tough race in 2012 for example), and it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Juneau to pull off a win.

To be sure, Zinke’s campaign is probably hoping we won’t notice these kinds of thing, but with a smart opponent like Juneau, this year, he may not be able to get away with it so easily.


12 Comments on "Zinke’s “Fake” Fundraising"

  1. What an immense cash flow! Able to pay off campaign debts and live like a Prince!
    Thank’s again Norma for providing this link to very interesting treasure hunting.


  2. Never hire a turnkey fundraising operation, especially one that depends on paper and stamps.

  3. Grizzled Bloviatrix | February 18, 2016 2:13 PM at 2:13 PM |

    The point of the article is that direct-mail fundraising is being used to inflate the level of reported contributions – giving the impression that the candidate has strong public support – rather than to raise funds for normal (you might say legitimate) campaign purposes. As we all know, donation levels have become one type of proxy for electoral strength.

    In 2015, according to the FEC, Zinke spent over $1.5M with (mostly) DC/Virginia-based PR, marketing, direct-mail, and consulting companies. Nearly a million was spent with two direct-mail houses. These companies are good at their job; they raised $2.3M in individual donations, 85% of it from out-of-state donations. He raised “only” $300k from PACs and other organizations, though perhaps that is not surprising in an off-year. So yes, he ended the year with cash-on-hand of $744k (much more than Juneau), but the direct-mail costs alone were around $1.66 for every dollar he ended up with.

    What’s curious to me is that Zinke, and others like him, are driving a mini-economy that has absolutely nothing to do with their home states. He spent over $250k last year on “campaigning” in DC (events, PR, ads, etc) but only $35k on similar events in the state of Montana. He spent $42k on local, in-state, staff (excluding the $62k he had to pay after a “dispute” with his former campaign director). Maybe the $77k reimbursement to Will Selph, who I guess is his finance director (as he was for Rehberg), stayed in Montana. The amount he spent in-state, on real local campaigning, is roughly the same as the amount he raised from individual contributions from Montanans, and less than a third of what he spent in the Beltway. What is the point? Zinke’s strategy seems to be to drive business for DC-based companies by raising funds from individuals most of whom have nothing to do with Montana.

    Overturning Citizens United is essential, but not the whole answer. It seems that people have come to believe that money really is speech, and that these phony campaigns are the right way to run a democracy. There must be a better way.

    • Grizzled Bloviatrix | February 18, 2016 2:27 PM at 2:27 PM |

      ps, just looked up Juneau’s contributors – she has a bit more than half as many as Zinke, but 75% are donations from Montanans (compared to 15% for Zinke)

      • Zinke spent $35K in MT, and 7X that much out of State?
        The devil is in the details. Who or what group do we
        check and thank for in State/out of State Zinke FEC accounted money in 2015.

        • Grizzled Bloviatrix | February 20, 2016 7:12 PM at 7:12 PM |

          Zinke has filed detailed data for 2015 with FEC, at
          …just do a search for Zinke/Montana. You can view the data several ways, and download into a spreadsheet, which is what I did to try to analyze and understand it.

          The information is detailed but not completely transparent as there are a lot of “reimbursements” not tied to specific expenses. There are also a couple of oddities (such as $4k+ paid to a VA real-estate escrow company and described as “bank fees”). I wasn’t sure what to make of large payments to Will Selph (Billings), who is not being paid as a staffer – his LinkedIn page says he’s Zinke’s finance director. Or the $70k paid to Alan Mikkelson (Alpine Research) for “office materials”…

          The overall picture is clear enough and consistent with what the DKOS article describes, just gives a better focus on the disproportionate amount being spent to raise out-of-state funds and the inherent circularity of the whole process.

          This website will not let me attach a PDF to show how I did the analysis. I’ve made images of the classification…you might be able to read that and compare to the raw data on the FEC site. Looks like I will have to load them one-by-one, so will do that.

          As you say, the devil is in the detail. Everybody looks for out-of-state money, esp in a small-population state like ours. Question is how they do it, why, and how the funds are used.

    • “Overturning Citizens United is essential, but not the whole answer. It seems that people have come to believe that money really is speech, and that these phony campaigns are the right way to run a democracy. There must be a better way.”

      MAYDAY (www.mayday.us) is working to elect people to congress who are committed to campaign finance reform. Going through Congress is one path to overturning Citizens United. There are also steps that Congress can take that don’t require a constitutional amendment. For example, The Government By the People Act (H.R. 20) (https://sarbanes.house.gov/bythepeople)

  4. Grizzled Bloviatrix | February 20, 2016 7:16 PM at 7:16 PM |

    Zinke expenditures classified – p 2

  5. Grizzled Bloviatrix | February 20, 2016 7:18 PM at 7:18 PM |

    Zinke expenditures classified – p 3

  6. Grizzled Bloviatrix | February 20, 2016 7:20 PM at 7:20 PM |

    Zinke expendires classified – p 4

  7. Grizzled Bloviatrix | February 20, 2016 7:24 PM at 7:24 PM |

    this is 2015 funds raised from identifiable individuals (about half what he raised from individuals overall), summed by state

  8. )ut of state contributions to Zinke, are getting near five times the amount of in state contributions to Zinke! Good job well done, Gizzled Bloviatrix! New breadth and depth at Montana Cowgirl! Zinke has been slinky about his 5 to 7 work. Receive 5X contribution$ from out of Montana, compared to contribution$ from Montana! Spend 7X as much money out of Montana, compared to money spent in Montana.

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