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July 23rd, 2012

The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly

The latest round of state fundraising reports are in, and while the numbers look good for House Republicans heading into the general election, things don’t look so hot for the Senate Republicans or the Republican Party of Iowa. Thus the name of this article is The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly.

The Good – House Republicans

Speaker Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer have already eclipsed the amount raised by their Democrat predecessors in 2010.

Two years ago, Republicans in the Iowa House were fighting to win back the majority.  This year, they are trying to maintain their 60-seat majority.  There is no doubt that Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen and House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer have used their positions to obtain the necessary funds to remain in control of the Iowa House.

Getting a good grasp on state legislative fundraising numbers isn’t quite as easy as looking at how two congressional candidates stack up against one another.  In the House, there are hundreds of candidates competing against each other, and keeping track of all the races takes time.

A cycle-to-cycle comparison is sometimes the best comparison that one could do.  To understand how well Paulsen and Upmeyer are performing, one can compare how they stacked up against their Democratic predecessors in 2010.  The fundraising disclosures show that for the entire 2010 election cycle, then Speaker Pat Murphy and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy raised $714,000.  Paulsen and Upmeyer have already eclipsed that mark with their last report, with $715,000.

Paulsen and Upmeyer’s strong fundraising is a great sign for Iowa Republicans, but other members of the House Republican leadership team are also contributing to the effort.  Rep. Steve Olson, the newly elected Speaker Pro Tem, raised $26,325 in the last reporting period.  Rep. Tom Sands, a proven fundraiser had an even stronger report that showed him raising $38,305.00, which leaves him with over $70,000 cash on hand.  Rep. Walt Rogers raised $25,717.00.

In total, Republican candidates for the Iowa House raised over $510,000 in the six-week period between the Friday before the June 5th primary and the 12th of July.  House Democrats on the other hand only raised $303,000.  For the entire cycle, House Republicans have raised $1.5 million to the Democrats’ $916,000.

Due to a hard-working caucus, House Republicans look primed to hold on to their majority in the Iowa House.  It’s hard to believe that they could expand their majority much beyond their current 60 seats, but they have put themselves in a position to defend some tough seats and go on the offense in other areas.

The Good – Matt Reisetter

Matt Reisetter top Republican fundraiser in the Iowa Senate

It’s hard to fathom that a candidate who is trying to win a seat in the Iowa Senate has outraised Senate Minority Leader Jerry Behn and Republican Whip Brad Zaun, but that’s what Reisetter did in the last six weeks.  The $44,212.00 that Reisetter raised is more than Behn and Zaun raised combined, and also more than Sen. Jeff Danielson, the guy he’s trying to beat in November, raised in the period.

If one threw all of the Republican legislative candidates running for office together, Reisetter outraised everyone except for Paulsen and Upmeyer.  No matter how you want to cut it, Matt Reisetter is setting the bar for challenger candidates and making a lot of incumbent legislators, especially senate leadership, look lazy and unmotivated in the process.

What is the secret to Reisetter’s success?  He works hard and does the unthinkable – he actually asks people for money.  Even though I don’t live in his Black Hawk County district, I’ve received a fundraising letter from Reisetter.  I have yet to get anything from Behn or Zaun.  More impressive than getting a solicitation was that it was probably the best legislative fundraising letter I’ve seen.

When I saw Reisetter at an event in Cedar Falls a week ago, I told him how impressed I was with his letter.  He replied, “Then why didn’t you send in a contribution,” with a smile on his face.  He then told me about printing the letters on a borrowed printer, sending more in-depth letters to larger donors, and the good results he’s had.

Other Senate candidates should take note of what Reisetter is doing and implement similar strategies in their campaigns.

The Bad – Senate Republicans

Last week, I documented how pathetic the Iowa Senate fundraising was when the two Senate Republican leaders posted a combined $95,000 in the bank.  It’s actually even worse than what I originally reported.  Brad Zaun’s report showed that he had $10,400 cash-on-hand, but an updated report shows that he only has $2,821.11 in the bank.  That means that the two Senate leaders only have slightly more than $85,000 at their disposal, and both are up for re-election this year.  The two jointly raised $19,593.45 in the period, or over $20,000 less than Matt Reisetter did.  That is inexcusable.

Behn and Zaun also shelled out $12,000 to Longford Associates in New Haven, Connecticut.  The report notes that this expense was in conjunction with a fundraiser.  I’m told that the $12,000, $10,000 paid by Zaun and $2,000 paid by Behn, was the speaking fee for Dick Morris.  A fundraising event was scheduled with him in Cedar Rapids, but the event was cancelled.

Instead, Morris addressed the Republican Senate candidates and staff at an event at the Republican Party of Iowa headquarters.  Paying fees for event headliners is always risky business, but it is especially bad if you are not even going to cover the cost of bringing the person in with the proceeds of the event.  Morris was the featured guest at a fundraiser for Brad Zaun’s congressional campaign in 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal ended the fundraising period with $547,158.38 in the bank, or $460,953.33 more than both Republican leaders.  If that doesn’t make you a little nervous, the following stat sure will.  When you total up what all of the Democrat senate candidates have in the bank as of July 12th, it totals $1,001,392.15.  Meanwhile, the amount of money that Republican candidates have is only $352,186.14.  That’s a whooping difference of almost $650,000.

The money advantage that Gronstal and senate Democrats have built up is significant because they are playing defense, while Senate Republicans have to hold a number of competitive incumbent seats before they can begin to pick up the necessary seats to win the majority.

Here is a brief roadmap to what it will take for Republicans to win the majority in the Iowa Senate.  There are 15 seats where Republican seats are either not up for election or where the Republican candidate does not face any opposition.

Then there are five incumbents seeking re-election.  Some like Sen. Behn and Sen. Pat Ward shouldn’t be problematic.  Others like incumbents like Sen. Tim Kapucian, Sen. Shawn Hammerlinck, and Sen. Merlin Bartz have more difficult districts and matchups.  Even if Republicans can find a way to keep all of their incumbents seeking reelection, which isn’t going to be easy, it would put them at only 20 seats, six away from winning the majority.

That means six candidates running in open seats or against sitting Democrats must win.  Republicans are in good shape in Senate District 4 with Dennis Guth, but they are going to need candidates like Mark Segebart in Senate District 6, Amy Sinclair in Senate District 14, Michael Breitbach in Senate District 28, and Dan Zumbach in Senate District 48 all to win and hope that someone like Matt Reistter can win a tough race in Black Hawk County, or a strong candidate in a tough district like Andrew Naeve in Senate District 49, or Larry Kruse in Senate District 42 can win.

To pull all of this off, it’s going to take resources, and that is something that Senate Republicans don’t currently have.  Republicans have the candidates in place to make a strong push for the majority, but if leadership can’t provide them with any support, it only makes a difficult task that much more difficult.  It is sad to see that the Republican leadership in the Senate has squandered the last eight months when it comes to fundraising.

The Ugly  – The Republican Party of Iowa

Iowa GOP only collects $4,710.24 in direct contributions.

If you think that the Senate fundraising numbers are depressing, wait till you see what the Republican Party of Iowa posted for contributions last month.  The party operates two accounts, one is a state account which is primarily made up of money that House and Senate candidates put in there to pay for campaign staffers and other expenses.  This is also an account that some people and PAC’s give to for the legislative majority effort. The other account is the federal account, which is basically the money with which the party functions.

The Iowa GOP reported raising $97,672.50 for it’s state account, but at least $89,410.00 was from legislative candidates or donors who specifically were donating towards to legislative majority efforts.  The more telling numbers are the Iowa GOP’s July disclosure with the Federal Election Commission.  That report shows that the Republican Party of Iowa brought in $95,556.82, spent $118,221.62 leaving them with $312,184.56 currently in its account.

Of the $95,556.82 raised, $86,507.83 is transfers from the Republican National Committee for the victory program.  Another $4,338.75 is from the state treasurer as part of the check-off program on Iowa tax returns.  That means the Republican Party of Iowa only raised $4,710.24.  Most of the contributions the party received were small donations.  In fact, the party only received three donations that they had to disclose.  Those thee donations totaled just $750.00.

As you know, $4700 doesn’t even pay the salaries of the receptionist, communication director, political director, or the executive director for a month.  That means unless the current administration can turn around its fundraising woes, the party will blow through its resources at a pretty rapid clip.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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