Campaign-Finance Tidbits – the Champions of Small Change

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Photo courtesy of Wellcome Library, London.

More is always better in the realm of political fundraising. However, not all fundraising is interchangeable. Today, we are going to talk briefly about small money.

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The number of small contributions a candidate receives during an odd-numbered year is usually a good indicator of the amount of “grassroots” support a candidate has during that time period. Candidates with a large base of small donors can recruit door knockers, poll watchers, and other volunteers from this pool of donors.

Pennsylvania campaign finance law provides that all aggregate contributions by a PAC, individual, or unincorporated business that total $50.00 or less during a reporting period should be added together and entered in one spot (and one spot only) on the Pennsylvania campaign finance report form. This means that if someone holds a fundraising event where the minimum entry fee is $50.00 or less, their committee need not list all the names of the individuals who pay this minimum fee.

As a result of this requirement, it is often impossible to tell how many small contributors a candidate has. In theory, we could take the amount listed for small contributions on a campaign finance report (entitled “Unitemized Contributions and Receipts”) and divide by $50.00. This will give us the minimum number of small contributors an individual has in any given period.

State Representative candidates are required to report on their finances five times in every even-numbered year. It is sometimes helpful to examine their contributions in the odd-numbered “off year” because the contributions will be aggregated.

We examined the small-contributions portion of all incumbent Pennsylvania Assembly candidates representing Pennsylvania. The five incumbents with the healthiest small-donor fundraising in Philadelphia County in 2018 were as follows:

Brian Sims (D-182) $16,170.00
Elizabeth Fiedler (D-184) $13,970.00
Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181) $10,270.00
Joseph C. Hohenstein (D-177) $6,086.00
Stephen Kinsey (D-201) $4,708.00

For 2019, the five incumbents who were tops in small contributions were:

Brian Sims (D-182) $15,426.00
Stephen Kinsey (D-201) $5,235.00
Elizabeth Fiedler (D-184) $5,221.00
Christopher M. Rabb (D-200) $2,649.00
Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181) $2,476.00

Incumbents who raised no money from small contributors in 2018 in Philadelphia included the following:

Thomas P. Murt (R-152)
Kevin J. Boyle (D-172)
Maria P. Donatucci (D-185)
Michael J. Driscoll (D-173)
Danilo Burgos (D-197)
Joanna E. McClinton (D-191)

Incumbent House members who raised no money from small contributors in 2019 in Philadelphia were as follows:

Angel Cruz (D-180)
Jason Dawkins (D-179)
Thomas P. Murt (R-152)
Kevin J. Boyle (D-172)
Maria P. Donatucci (D-185)
Pamela A. DeLissio (D-194)
Rosita C. Youngblood (D-198)
Jordan A. Harris (D-186)

(Note: a campaign-finance report for the committee of State Rep. James Roebuck (D-188), Friends of Jim Roebuck, could not be located for 2019.)

Full dataset for all small donor fundraising for all Pennsylvania incumbent house members are available at http://WinningCampaigns.Vote.

David Lynn is an independent political analyst living in Philadelphia, and blogmaster of http://WinningCampaigns.Vote. He moonlights as a Phrenologist on weekends.

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