Reading the Tea Leaves About Steve Filson's Fundraising
I assume everyone reading this knows how important fundraising is both to the actual and the perceived viability of political candidates. In the Democratic primary of this race, fundraising has been much-discussed because Steve Filson has made one the central arguments of his campaign his ability to out-fundraise Jerry McNerney. However, the use of this type of argument by Filson creates a certain expectation that he will continue to be a prolific fundraiser. So I was incredibly interested in seeing the following quote from a small newspaper in the district*, which opens up the possibility that Filson’s fourth quarter numbers will be much weaker than everyone has assumed.
The penultimate paragraph of the article reads (emphasis mine):
“Filson’s web site said that he had about $100,000 cash on hand at the end of the September campaign reporting period. He said that there has not been much change in the fourth quarter of 2005. He has aggressive plans for fund-raising in the next quarter. He has hired a staff of professional consultants in various important positions in his campaign.”
It’s hard to analyze this conclusively (hence the title) but this could be huge. If Filson has not appreciably increased his cash on hand he’s in trouble. It either means that Steve Filson raised a lot of money but spent too much of it or it means that Steve Filson did not raise much money. Neither prospect puts Filson in a very positive light.
But the deeper issue is that he got away with touting his fundraising skills based on a single data point, which was his third quarter numbers. He started off by raising over $100,000 in very short order, so nobody has much doubted that he is a capable fundraiser. If his fourth quarter numbers are the pits, the trend line will be pointing south, and his momentum, such as it is, will be very much in question. Conversely, McNerney clearly stepped up his fundraising in the fourth quarter and has announced that he has raised over $100,000 this election cycle. This means McNerney went from raising just over $32,000 in the third quarter to around $50,000 in the fourth. Clearly, if Filson did not raise a lot of money in the fourth quarter, McNerney’s increased fundraising combined with his new endorsements would give him a tremendous amount of momentum. It may be that Filson even raised more money than McNerney, but if he underperforms compared to everyone’s expectations, this will hurt him.
This raises the possibility that we’ll see something of tortoise and the hare fundraising race. The metaphor is not perfect because we need to remember that due to Jerry McNerney’s grassroots presence, he does not need to spend the same amount of money as Filson to get his message out. So even if he raises less money than Filson, it still might be sufficient for him to win the primary. And that’s especially true if Filson does not raise enough money to get on television, something McNerney is almost certainly not going to be able to do. But the question is whether Filson (the hare) has been napping, or whether he has been zipping along. If he’s been napping, it might inhibit his ability to fundraise at the rate that he needs to win.
All of this said, I want to take a moment to concede that there is precious little meat in the quote I’m looking at in this entry. It could be that Filson meant to say that the pace of his fundraising hadn’t changed, which is actually more in line with my initial expectations. However, if that’s the case, either the reporter or Filson choose his words very poorly. In any event, the FEC reports will come out at the end of the month, so we will put this question to bed soon thereafter. I am putting this up on Say No to Pombo because it is the only hint I have seen, one way or another, about Filson’s fundraising in the fourth quarter. If you have any conclusive evidence that the implication I explored in this post is wrong, please pass it along to me and I will update the blog accordingly.
*The quote comes from an article published January 5 in the Independent “Circulation: 48,365 Serving Livermore, Pleasanton and Sunol.” There is actually quite a bit in the article about Pete McCloskey that is interesting and you can read it here (PDF/HTML).