Last Friday, the Democratic and Republican Parties of Arkansas filed contribution and expenditure reports with the Secretary of State. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when discussing campaign finance reports, people’s eyes glaze over and you can actually see their mind drift away to more interesting topics, like chocolate or the Razorbacks.
Reviewing state party reports are interesting for political junkies when you consider this concept: The party with the Governor’s Mansion raises and spends money differently than the party that doesn’t.
It’s fun for political junkies to analyze the reports and see who contributes and how their money gets spent. For example, with Mike Beebe as Governor, Democrats have an easier time raising funds in big chunks than the Republican Party. I’ll delve deeper into that concept later in this post. Also in this post, you’ll read about how one state party recently paid a fine to the Federal Election Commission for filing an incomplete report last year.
The reports filed on Friday cover state activity for the period of April 1, 2011 – June 30, 2011. The state parties must report state funds raised and spent for that time frame. However, they are not required to report to the Secretary of State their cash-on-hand balances. Through a quirky difference in state and federal reporting, political parties partially report their cash-on-hand balances to the FEC, but are not required to report any cash on hand amounts to the SOS.
By reviewing reports filed with the FEC, you can determine how much "hard money" (read from individuals, federal parties or federal PACs) the parties have on hand. But it’s almost impossible to determine how much "soft money" each party has on hand.
With that in mind – to the reports!
Democratic Party of Arkansas – Secretary of State Reports for 4/1/11 – 6/30/11
Total Contributions = $117,185
Total Disbursements = $118,791
Federal Cash on Hand Balance as of 5/30/11 = $142,637 (FEC reports are not due until the 20th of each month)
Debts or obligations – $33,545 (listed on last FEC filing)
Top Contributors of $5,000 or more
1) Wal-Mart – $25,000
2) Southland Racing Corporation – $10,000
3) Arkansas Hospital Association – $5,000
4) BNSF Railway Company – $5,000
5) IBEW-COPE – $5,000
6) Snell Prosthetic & Orthotic – $5,000
7) Usable Corporation – $5,000
8) Waste Management – $5,000
1) Hickman Analytics – $30,042
2) The Markham Group – $23,606 (done in 3 payments for the time period)
3) Wright Strategies – $22,889 (done in 3 payments for the time period)
4) Reger Research – $9,136
DPA – Contributors
Of the $117,185 the DPA raised last quarter, 55% of their money raised came in chunks of $5,000 or more. Wal-Mart was the biggest contributor to the DPA with a $25,000 contribution and Southland Racing came in second with a $10,000 contribution. The remaining large contributions came in $5,000 increments.
DPA – Top Expenditures
In the year’s second quarters, Hickman Analytics from Maryland received the largest disbursement from the DPA with a payment of $30,042. The state report does not require listing the purpose of the disbursement, so we can only speculate on the purpose. Hickman Analytics is Governor Beebe’s pollster and that size of a disbursement leads me to believe the DPA conducted either a benchmark poll and/or focus groups at some point in the quarter. Let me emphasize that’s only a guess.
Two Little Rock-based consulting firms, The Markham Group and Wright Strategies received a large share of funds last quarter. For this three month reporting period, the DPA spent $46,495 with these two consulting firms. Reger Research of Virginia received $9,136.
As with the Hickman Analytics payment, the state party is not required to list the purpose of these expenditures to the Secretary of State, but clearly the Democrats are putting money into their advance efforts to reverse their fortunes from 2010. Candace Martin, Communications Director for the DPA, tells me, "We have a strong operation moving into 2012 and we definitely have a good plan to execute in order to hold onto Democratic victories and gain ground. We’re hitting the ground running making sure we do everything that we can to continue electing Arkansas Democrats in the state."
Republican Party of Arkansas – Secretary of State Reports for 4/1/11 – 6/30/11
Total Contributions = $87,701
Total Disbursements = $142,280
Federal Cash on Hand balance as 6/30/11 – $40,407 (GOP filed early)
Top Contributors of $5,000 or more
1) Wal-Mart – $10,000
2) Tyson Foods – $5,000
3) Windstream – $5,000
1) The Heritage Company – $12,076 (Two payments)
2) Doyle Webb – $7,019 on 4/1/11
3) Arkansas Queen Riverboat – $5,403
4) Federal Election Commission – $2,500
5) Hudson, Cisne & Co, LLP – $12,000 (numerous payments)
When reviewing the RPA’s finance report it’s obvious that for the last quarter the majority of their contributors came in $2,500 donations or less, but there is an obvious reason for this. They don’t have the Governor’s Mansion. The party in power has an easier time in getting big checks. When I was the Executive Director of the DPA, Mike Huckabee was Governor and RPA finance reports reflected big money contributions. DPA reports then were similar to the RPA’s now – mostly smaller donations.
Note that Wal-Mart gave the Democrats $15,000 more than they did the Republicans. Classic example of the party with the Governor’s Mansion getting the bigger checks.
The RPA spent $12,076 with The Heritage Company for fundraising mail pieces and this may partially explain the smaller contributions. The RPA pays their chairman, Doyle Webb, a salary while the DPA does not.
In April, the RPA paid a $2,500 fine to the Federal Election Commission for submitting an incomplete finance report. According to the RPA’s Communications Director, Katherine Vasilos, in April of 2010 their accountant submitted an incomplete report to the FEC. Vasilos said their accountant was taking care of a terminally-ill spouse at that time. The accountant self-reported the error to the FEC in July 2010 and the $2,500 expenditure reflects a negotiated fine with the FEC.
You may recall that in 2005 the RPA paid a whopping $360,000 fine to the FEC for multiple violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act.
Accounting firm Hudson, Cisne & Co, LLP received $12,000 for the second quarter. The rest of the RPA’s expenditures are fairly unexciting: staff, rent, equipment, purchases, etc.
Are your eyes glazed over yet? Thinking about chocolate? I knew it!
However, understanding Arkansas politics means you must know how political parties and candidates raise and spend their money.