Campaign Financing

Candidates running for office cannot afford to run a successful campaign off of their own finances; it is integral that they garner support from various individuals, organizations, institutions, and PACs. While having more funding does not guarantee that a candidate will secure the desired position, it certainly enhances their ability to run a successful campaign. There is a threshold though where a candidates expenditures produces diminishing returns in voter approval. Such a phenomenon can be seen in the senate race between Chris Murphy and Linda McMahon, McMahon outspent Murphy at a rate of four to one but Murphy still won the senate seat. Often the funds are used on making public appearances, advertising, hiring political consultants, and paying those who work for the campaign. It is as important to look at where the money is coming from as it is to look at where it is going.

Berg outspent Heitkamp by approximately $1,000,00 (opensecrets.com). Even though financially Berg had more funding, Heitkamps financial deficit did not set her campaign back substantially. When looking at an analysis of donations its evident that Berg had a significantly higher amount of large individual contributions than Heitkamp did. Further, Berg received more support form the PACs than Heitkamp did. Bergs biggest contributor was Petro-Hunt LLC a private independently owned oil and gas company in texas that is known for its clout in the energy industry (opensecrets.com). His next two biggest contributors were Verizon Communications, a top phone company, and Goldman Sachs, a renounced financial institution that is known for its success on wall street. While the energy company clearly has an intrinsic interest in supporting a republican candidate, the other two big contributors may not overtly appear to have a reason to heavily support Berg. For Verizon Communications the company has an extensive history of making contributions to Republican candidates most likely because they want less regulation in the communications industry. The same applies for Goldman Sach, they too want less restrictions in the investment banking and securities industries, thus these corporations are funding the republican platform rather than Berg as an individual candidate.

Unsurprisingly Heitkamps top contributor is a law firm called Motley Rice LLC; they are one of Americas largest plaintiff litigation firms (opensecrets.com). Heitkamps experience as attorney general makes this seem like a natural fit. Her second most generous contributor was the Council for a livable world, a DC based nonpartisan organization that wants to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons and advocate sensible national security policies(liveableworld.org).  This organization could views Heitkamp as a promising candidate due to her positive stance on Nuclear deterrence. This organization wants to help elect officials who have a sensible stance on national security, and Heitkamp could fit into this category. The third largest contributor is Weitz and Luxenberg who are mesothelioma and asbestos lawyers (opensecrets.com). Once again Heitkamps service as attorney general, and career as a lawyer, helped secure her this contribution.

Heitkamp Campaign Contributions

Graph of Heitkamp Campaign Contributions, opensecrets.com

Chart of Rick Berg Campaign Contributions

Graph of Rick Berg Campaign Contributions, Opensecrets.com

When looking at a breakdown of the industries or sectors that have contributed to each candidates campaign an interesting trend emerges. The top contributions for the republican candidate come from industries like oil & gas, securities & investments and Leadership PACs (opensecrets.com). The top contributions for the Democratic candidate come from industries such as law firms, leadership PACs and women’s issues organizations (opensecrets.com). Clearly oil & gas and financial institutes have a vested interest in the Republican party platform which accounts for their contributions. Heitkamps major contributors are also in line with her platform. Running as a democrat, a woman and a former lawyer it seems logical that those investing in her campaign would have some connection to either one or all of those industries. What is surprising is that her experience at the Great Plains Synfuel Plant did not attract more oil and gas contributions. Heitkamp only received $62, 750 in donations compared to Bergs $542,549 (opensecrets.com). Both candidates are for oil and gas production in the United States so the disproportionate contributions can only be accounted for based upon partisan, in this case Republican, bias. Here Berg gains the upper hand through funding due to his parties legacy.

Berg Expenditures

Rick Berg Campaign Expenditures, Opensecrets.com

Heidi Heitkamp Campaign Expenditures, Opensecrets.com

Both candidates raised an ample amount of funds. Ultimately these contributions were utilized to execute effective campaign strategies that significantly impacted the outcome of this race. Berg and Heitkamp spent a majority of their funding on media. Heitkamp spent more on her staff’s salaries and on administrative needs. Where as Berg placed more emphasis on fundraising and strategy & research. Further Heitkamp spent $224,477 on printing while Berg only spent $30,773 (opensecrets.com). Heitkamp could have placed more flyers or posters around North Dakota, or she could have sent out more mailers than Berg did. While campaign mailers are not the most effective tool they do draw some attention and it familiarizes people with the names of individuals running for office. Since Berg spent more money fundraising its possible that this expenditure is what accounts for his greater overall funds. The old saying “you have to spend money to make money”might be applicable in this instance. Berg is spending money fundraising, either by throwing benefits or galas in order to increase the amount of contributions he would get for his campaign. By committing more assets to fundraising than Heitkamp did, he is giving himself a fiscal advantage since he is actively pursuing more benefactors or contributors. Meanwhile Heitkamp is not allocating as many funds in this area.

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