Wellstone's Deep Well
By Dwight L. Morris
By Dwight L. Morris
With his stunning upset victory over Rudy Boschwitz in 1990, Paul Wellstone gained more than a Senate seat in Minnesota. Almost overnight, he was transformed from a political unknown who struggled to raise slightly less than $1.5 million for his initial campaign into a money magnet who raised $4.5 million between January 1, 1991 and March 31, 1996. Only three Senators who are seeking reelection in 1996 Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), Phil Gramm (R-Texas) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) have raised more than Wellstone.
For his initial Senate bid, Wellstone raised just $260,910 from individual donors who gave at least $200, and 65 percent of that modest total came from Minnesota residents. For the first defense of his seat, he has already collected $675,264 from such well-healed supporters, with 52 percent of that total coming from out-of-state. He has received nearly four times as much from out-of-state donors as he did in 1990. Individual donations to Wellstone of less than $200 amounted to $811,165 during the 1990 campaign; since taking the oath of office, he has raised $3,327,463 through his small-donor outreach. Despite his support for campaign finance reform, he has accepted $524,314 from political action committees since January 1991 $218,280 more than he raised from PACs in 1990.
For Boschwitz, who never stopped running and is preparing for what he hopes will be a rematch with Wellstone this November, the 1990 defeat put a significant damper on his ability to raise money. Having raked in more than $7.7 million during the 1990 cycle, Boschwitz has labored long and hard to collect $2.1 million over the past five years.
Since 1991 Boschwitz has raised $864,920 from individuals willing to write checks for $200 or more. During the 1990 election cycle, he pulled in $2,577,150 in large donations. New Yorkers funneled $347,625 into his campaign coffers in 1990, accounting for 13 percent of his large contributions. The Empire State has provided him with only $79,724 for the 1996 rematch. That pattern has been repeated in Florida, where he raised $302,633 for the 1990 campaign, but only $50,150 for his current effort. Californians, who anted up $276,669 when he was the incumbent, have come through with only $28,700 in support of the challenger.
Boschwitz's efforts to attract small donations have been hit just as hard. After collecting $3,457,686 from his small-donor base during the 1990 cycle, he had managed to raise just $894,291 from such supporters as of March 31. Political action committees, which gave him a total of $1,352,044 for his 1990 campaign, had donated just $217,894 to his 1996 cause through the end of March.
Put simply, Senate incumbents do not need to call people and ask them to hold a fund-raiser. Once elected, people from all over the country begin to call with offers to sponsor events. In turn, big donations fund the kinds of permanent campaign structures that can support massive direct-mail and telemarketing efforts aimed at small donors. Fund-raising may become time consuming, but it is anything but difficult.
For challengers even those who may have held a Senate seat in the past the task of raising enough money to be competitive is far more daunting.
Whether difficult or easy, fund-raising is expensive, especially when the primary target is small donors. Through the end of March, Wellstone had invested $2,105,349 in his non-stop fund-raising operation, accounting for 63 percent of his total spending over the past five years. His direct-mail fund-raising costs during that five-year stretch have amounted to $1,474,058, including payments totaling $1,378,193 to his direct-mail fund-raising consultant, Mal Warwick & Associates of Berkeley, Calif. Three firms The Progressive Group of Hadley, Mass., Share Systems of West Sommerville, Mass., and FACS of Minneapolis have received a total of $336,961 for their telemarketing fund-raising services. Costs associated with his fund-raising receptions, including payments to eight consultants, have totaled $277,261 so far.
As of March 31, Boschwitz had already pumped $770,036 into his fund-raising operation, which represented 46 percent of his 1996 campaign investment. Republican direct-mail specialist Odell Roper & Associates has received $297,749 to scour the country for donations from those Boschwitz fondly refers to as "skinny cats" donors who give $99 or less. Ashmore Associates and Strategic Communications, both St. Paul-based telemarketers, have received $82,245 and $66,886, respectively. Three event planners two in Washington, D.C. and one in New York have been paid a total of $102,432 for helping Boschwitz tap into the pockets of the PAC community and wealthy individual donors.
Despite raising a total of more than $6.5 million for their potential rematch, Wellstone and Boschwitz had a combined total of just over $1.5 million in the bank at the end of March. Their money chase will undoubtedly continue.
This column originally appeared on the PoliticsNow Web site.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company