Campaign fund raising as a challenger is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. Doing the ask does not bother me. Pitching to strangers is something I had to do repeatedly in the early years of XMission. However, I’ve had a higher hit rates selling chocolate Santas as a teenager than with donors who have traditionally given high amounts to Democrats in other races.
Many have expressed dismay at the amount that has been raised in this campaign, versus my opponent who has over $4 million dollars. I can only wonder where he finds the time outside his Senate office to make all those calls. Yet minimal amounts are par for the course for Democratic federal candidates challenging incumbents in Utah. Looking at one of my favorite websites, Open Secrets, the following record is presented. In the past eight years, wunderfund and former party chair, Donald Dunn comes in first with $379,269 total, with individual contributions at $273,610 and an additional $87,189 from PACs. The mark slopes rapidly from there. My predecessor, Scott Howell raised $189,037 and received $14,000 from PACs. Post BCRA, Paul Van Dam brought in $93,057 with PAC contributions of $18,750. The Democratic challengers in congressional districts after 2002 averaged contributions of just over $32,000.
Although I applaud Howard Dean’s 50-state-strategy, supporting the candidates in all states by connecting them to donors is equally as important as hiring party employees. I called a number of consistent donors on the national level and the reaction was always the same, “You’re running against who?” with a laugh. This attitude needs to change inside the Democratic party. The races that make the most difference in winning are the races that are hardest won.
Some have joked to me that BCRA was otherwise known as the Incumbent Protection Act. Admittedly, I had a completely different picture of campaign finance reform before I became a candidate. The fund raising advantage has long been in the hands of the incumbent, and BCRA didn’t do anything to resolve that. Talking to Chris Cannon at the Scandinavian Days Festival in Ephraim he lamented the state of campaign finance, but when I brought up public financing he told me he was opposed to it, because it gave the advantage to the incumbent. He didn’t elaborate on how this worked out, but it continues to puzzle me to this day.
Right now, I have to walk a tightrope between calling potential donors and getting out to meet the public. Frankly, I would rather that all candidates did only the latter and none of the former. A bipartisan group of four former senators seeks to do just that with “Just $6”. While it is nice to have former senators and potential senators calling for federal finance reform, what we really need is existing senators to be on board. Rabbits running the cabbage shop, kids in charge of the candy store, raccoons collecting garbage, find your favorite euphemism, but there aren’t many that want to see the status quo change. What is needed is to replace them with people who are committed to this change and I promise that I am.
Of course, until that day arrives, I still need your donation.