While all the talk in Washington is about fiscal responsibility, the new House freshman class seems to command better standing than many other past first-term groups when comparing their public policy rhetoric to campaign practices.
Looking at the 2010 campaign finance statistics, 158 of 435 winning candidates ended their electoral cycle carrying some amount of campaign debt, slightly more than 1/3 of all victorious candidates, according to the year-end financial disclosure reports as published by the Federal Election Commission. Ninety-three are from veteran member campaigns, meaning much of their debt may be from previous election cycles.
Of the 63 freshmen carrying debt, not including members with a break in service or those elected in post-2008 special elections, the great preponderance are Republicans (56R-7D), mostly because GOP candidates won so many more races. Of the pure freshmen in the current 112th Congress, 87 are Republican compared to just nine Democrats.
Only two freshmen have over $1 million in campaign debt. Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) is showing the highest amount of red ink, but 52% of the $1.146 million is owed to himself in the form of a candidate loan. The second member to carry a seven-figured debt is Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-6). Her total is $1.046 million, but the entire amount is owed to herself.
Just five new members are carrying more than $500,000 in debt. They are:
• Bill Flores (R-TX-17) – $739,872
• David McKinley (R-WV-1) – $670,000
• Bill Hanna (R-NY-24) – $536,515
• David Schweikert (R-AZ-5) – $523,000
• Nan Hayworth (R-NY-19) – $504,902
A dozen first-term members hold debts of between $200,000 and $499,999. They are:
• Justin Amash (R-MI-3) – $408,200
• Mike Kelly (R-PA-3) – $382,720
• Scott Rigell (R-VA-2) – $378,000
• Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) – $375,222
• Joe Walsh (R-IL-8) – $361,740
• Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) – $338,529
• Lou Barletta (R-PA-11) – $258,495
• Chuck Fleishmann (R-TN-3) – $250,000
• Cedric Richmond (D-LA-2) – $236,826
• Tim Griffin (R-AR-2) – $232,897
• Tim Mulvaney (R-SC-5) – $210,000
• Joe Heck (R-NV-3) – $203,000
An additional 13 are between $100,000 and $199,999 in the red:
• Reid Ribble (R-WI-8) – $173,009
• Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-4) – $163,406
• Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) – $158,687
• Dan Benishek (R-MI-1) – $157,000
• Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27) – $156,643
• Rick Berg (R-ND-AL) – $154,250
• Frederica Wilson (D-FL-17) – $154,750
• Bob Dold (R-IL-10) – $143,609
• David Rivera (R-FL-25) – $137,474
• Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) – $121,959
• David Cicilline (D-RI-1) – $120,000
• Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) – $103,062
• Sandy Adams (R-FL-24) – $100,850
An additional 31 freshmen members have debt, but all are below $100,000 in dollars owed, and 24 have no debt at all.
It appears that the vast majority of freshmen will be debt-free and in strong financial position when the first quarter reporting period draws to an end on March 31. Maintaining such a status is crucial when preparing for the all-important first re-election campaign.
The rise of the independent organizations that put millions of dollars into specific, candidate-related political messages may be largely responsible for reducing not only candidate campaign spending to some degree, but also the individual members’ campaign debts. The final year-end financial figures are just one more indication that the world of campaign finance continues to evolve in new and very different ways. These results again underscore the fundamental changes in free expression that the Citizens’ United Supreme Court ruling has brought to the political marketplace.
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