Wednesday, April 23, 2014

HAWVER: Running is free; winning takes cash

By MARTIN HAWVER, At the Rail | 12/2/2013

While most of us are wondering what we’ll get for Christmas — and making discreet suggestions of what would be nice — many Kansas politicians aren’t as subtle about what they want.

They want campaign contributions before the annual shutoff of campaign contributions from political action committees, corporations and unions.

While most of us are wondering what we’ll get for Christmas — and making discreet suggestions of what would be nice — many Kansas politicians aren’t as subtle about what they want.

They want campaign contributions before the annual shutoff of campaign contributions from political action committees, corporations and unions.

That shutoff starts Jan. 1 and continues until sine die adjournment of the Legislature — probably in May — and means months during which candidates for state offices can accept campaign contributions only from individuals. Now, those individual contributions are nice, of course, but they represent only about a quarter of the flow of campaign money for candidates.

That prohibition of corporations, PACs and such from giving money to candidates during the legislative session is a pretty logical one. Nobody wants to see lobbyists handing money to legislators who are still voting on issues that the lobbyists care about. Before the session, or after it is formally adjourned, well, it doesn’t look quite as unseemly.

So the December push is on for those corporate and PAC contributions, and for another reason as well.

If you want to challenge an incumbent, or even a candidate who has already filed for office, the amount of money that your opponent has on hand can be daunting.

At the last report nearly a year ago, for example, there were 22 House members who had more campaign cash on hand on Jan. 1, 2013, than they spent to win their offices in 2012. If they didn’t raise a dime, presumably, they could finance the same campaign that brought them to Topeka last year.

Imagine how that plays with a potential candidate with good ideas, a strong wish to help govern the state ... and the chance that no matter how good his/her ideas, not enough people would hear them to win a primary or general election?

On legislative races — just the House in 2014 — dollars are important.

For that other nice state job (governor), one-term Republican Sam Brownback will have plenty of money, of course. But Democratic challenger House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, boosts his chances to oust Brownback if he and runningmate Jill Docking, Wichita, can amass a giant campaign fund — say $1 million or more — before the Jan. 1 cutoff.

Now, $1 million won’t win a campaign, but it will show that there is considerable support for the challenging team, and at some level, it evens up the race by demonstrating that campaign contributors have confidence in the Democratic squad.

But there is a lot to be learned from that Jan. 10 filing, including what could be a hint that some legislator is not very interested in coming back for another term if he/she didn’t bother to raise much money for a campaign.

The issues, of course, will likely decide the outcome of most races ... if candidates can afford to let you know where they are on the issues.

Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report. Visit his Web site at www.hawvernews.com

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