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Intellect

Individual donations swell campaign coffers of both parties

Democrats maintain finance gap in Senate 18 months into cycle, study says

A surge in individual contributions to campaign coffers stimulated by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 has led to a widening of the traditional financial advantage normally enjoyed by Democratic candidates for the Senate at this stage of the campaign. In addition, Republican candidates for the House maintain their typical slight financial lead over their Democratic counterparts, according to scholars from Brigham Young University and Colby College.

The scholars' findings, published by the Brookings Institution in a new book, Financing the 2004 Election, come from their study of changes in campaign finance patterns over the years, with particular attention to shifts brought about by the BCRA.

David B. Magleby, dean of BYU's College of Family, Home and Social Sciences and a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said that in the battle for Congress, competitive congressional campaigns are waged with resources from several sources, including individuals, parties, candidates and groups. The fortunes of Republicans and Democrats vary by which chamber they are running for.

"When all sources are added together, Democratic Senate candidates enjoy a 23 percent advantage over Republican Senate candidates at this stage of the 2006 cycle. At this stage of the last five cycles, this advantage has typically been 10 percent," said Magleby.

"In the House, when all sources are added together Republican candidates enjoy a 21 percent advantage over House Democratic candidates. At this stage of the last five cycles, this advantage has typically been 18 percent."

Financing the 2004 Election is the latest installment of a series begun in 1960 that examines the financing and spending patterns of candidates, interest groups, and political parties during presidential campaigns. The trends documented in the book help to explain what is happening in the 2006 cycle.

Kelly Patterson, BYU associate professor of political science and director of CSED said that the book documents the surge brought about by the BCRA, which increased the amount individuals could contribute.

"This activity continues 18 months into the current election cycle," said Patterson. "When comparing the first 18 months of this election cycle to the first 18 months of cycles dating back to 1998, we see some trends emerging."

Those trends include:

  • Individual contributions to Democratic Senate candidates rose in 2004 and have increased another 28 percent in 2006.

  • Individual contributions to Republican Senate candidates increased from 2002 to 2004. They have not seen a similar increase in 2006, and they lag behind Democratic candidates for the Senate.

  • House Republican candidates received more dollars from individual contributions at this point in the cycle in 2004. In 2006, the same kind of increase now benefits Democrats running for the House. Republican House candidates have raised more from individuals in 2006 than in 2004 and they continue to lead Democrats by $8 million. The gap in 2004 though was $34 million. "Another way to see the surge in individual contributions for Senate Democratic candidates is to compare the 2006 candidates to the candidates running in the same set of states in 2000," said Patterson. "In these states, Senate Democratic candidates have more than doubled the number of dollars raised from individuals from $68 million to $145 million. Senate Republican candidates have gone from $92 million to $102 million in 2006."

    Competition for control of Congress has led candidates and their parties to search aggressively for contributions, said Magleby.

    "The 2006 Democratic and Republican Senate candidates are at or near parity in money raised from PACs, self-financing and loans," said Magleby. "House Republican candidates have raised $24 million more from PACs than they did at the 18-month stage of the cycle in 2004. House Republicans have a $25 million advantage over House Democratic candidates."

    Even though House Democratic candidates lag behind their Republican counterparts, they have raised $14 million more at this stage of the cycle than they did in 2004, Magleby adds.

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    Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo

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