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January 23rd, 2013

Branstad Raises Over $1 Million in 2012 – Reynolds Sets Up Her Own Campaign Account

By Craig Robinson

Candidates, political actions committees, and political parties have all filed their final financial 2012 disclosure with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board on Tuesday.

The year-end reports are significant for a couple reasons.  One, they give us a glimpse of where Iowa’s statewide elected officials stand as they prepare to run for re-election in 2014.  While all eyes will be on Governor Branstad’s report, early fundraising numbers can also give us a glimpse into how competitive other statewide races may be next year.

To the reports!

Governor Terry Branstad

The Governor raised $1,116,705.90 in 2012, and has $1,461,929.66 in the bank as he prepares (we assume) to run for re-election.  Branstad’s cash-on-hand number is almost exactly what Chet Culver had in the bank when he was preparing to run for re-election in 2009.  While Branstad has said he will not make an announcement about running for re-election until 2014, it sure seems like all systems are a go for the Branstad campaign and Iowa’s longest serving governor.

Notable Transactions:

Des Moines businessman Bill Knapp, a major contributor to the Iowa Democratic Party and Democrat candidates in the state, contributed $10,000 to Branstad’s campaign last year.  Knapp’s business dealings in central Iowa are most likely what has prompted him to donate to Republicans office holders and candidates from time to time, but nothing is more demoralizing to the party out of power than when a large donor writes a large check to the opposition.  The $10,000 he contributed to Branstad is insignificant when compared to the large amounts Knapp donates to the Iowa Democrat Party, but it does indicate that the Democrats have yet to find a serious contender to take on Branstad in 2014.

It looks like the Branstad campaign conducted a statewide poll in July of 2012.  The committee spent $20,611 with Hill Research Consultants on July 12th.  David Hill was Branstad’s pollster for his 2010 race and has done polling for the Iowa First Foundation, an organization spearheaded by Doug Gross.

Branstad contributed $175,000 to the Republican effort in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate last year through his campaign.  It should also be noted that Branstad also assisted Senator Jerry Behn with raising money for the Iowa Senate.

The Potential Branstad Challengers

A handful of Iowa Democrats have made noise about challenging Governor Branstad in 2014, but in politics, money talks, and none of the candidate that the mainstream media has speculated about have done anything to indicate that they are serious about running when it comes to fundraising.

State Senator Jack Hatch: $7,935.48 (Cash on Hand)
State Representative Tyler Olson: $16,470.10 (Cash on Hand)
Congressman Bruce Braley: $90,012.81 (Cash on Hand as of 11/26/2012)
Former Governor Chet Culver: $216.84* (Cash on Hand)

* Culver still has $23,550.00 in outstanding loans to his campaign.  The former Governor also continues to loan his campaign money to cover the $180.20 a month rental fee at Fleur Mini Storage.

Running a gubernatorial campaign takes a lot of money, and the $114,000 that the most talked about candidates have in the bank doesn’t even buy you a cup of coffee with Iowa voters.  The trick is getting known all across the state, and no matter what these guys do, they are never going to be as well known as Terry Branstad.

Good luck trying to catch Branstad gentlemen.  To be a serious gubernatorial candidate, one typically uses other political offices and positions to develop relationships that can turn into a fundraising network.  Chet Culver did this as Secretary of State, but none of the other guys mentioned have done the hard work of preparing to run for statewide office.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds

Perhaps the most interesting news from the latest round of campaign disclosures is that Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has her own campaign account.

There is nothing in Iowa law that prevents Reynolds from having her own campaign account, but past Iowa Lieutenant Governors never raised their own funds before, making this uncharted territory.  Reynolds filed an “Other Political Subdivision Candidate” report with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.  The report showed that Reynolds raised $82,000.00, of which $60,000 was contributed toward the election efforts in the Iowa Senate and Iowa House.

The Branstad Administration likes to mention Reynolds as Governor Branstad’s heir apparent, but this is the first major step in making that a real possibility.  Having her own campaign account will allow Reynolds to build relationships with donors herself, but more importantly, it allows her to make contributions to local candidates and organizations should she wish to do so.  If Branstad really wants to prepare Reynolds to take over some day, he must allow her to venture out on her own politically.  The creation of her own campaign account allows that to happen.

This development is more than interesting – it’s fascinating.

Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey

Secretary Bill Northey is perhaps the most overlooked politician in the state.  Nobody doubts his knowledge and experience when it comes to Iowa agriculture, but Northey is also shrewd politician.  Northey won a tough primary in 2006 and followed it up with a general election victory in a year when Republicans were killed at the ballot box.  Since being elected in 2006, Northey has improved at one of the most important skill sets in all of politics – fundraising.  Northey raised $65,145.00 in 2012, which may seem insignificant, but in an election year when you are not on the ballot, that’s pretty good.  Northey heads into 2013 with $128,273.65 in the bank.  That’s probably enough to make a serious opponent think twice about running against him.

Notable Transaction:

Statewide office holders besides the Governor often struggle to raise money because donors are more focused on top-of-the-ticket contests or control of the legislature.  Northey’s ability to raise money is significant because it allows him to aid the Republican effort in Iowa.  In 2012, Northey contributed $30,000 to the Republican effort in the Iowa House and Senate.  Besides Branstad and Reynolds, Northey was the other statewide office holder who chipped in to help the Republican legislative effort.  While that makes him a good team player, it might also indicate that he has his eye on running for higher office someday.

State Auditor Dave Vaudt

Like Northey, State Auditor Dave Vaudt also does a nice job of keeping a serious Democrat opponent at bay by keeping a healthy balance in his campaign account.  Vaudt raised $28,925.00 in last year, but as you would expect from the Iowa’s budget hawk, he doesn’t spend much.  Vaudt ended the year with $118,355.54 in the bank and is on track to have the financial resources he needs to run for re-election.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz

Despite having a difficult time raising money for his 2010 campaign, Secretary of State Matt Shultz was able to unseat a Democrat incumbent.  Schultz’s fundraising struggles have continued through his first term in office as he currently has only $29,505.62 cash-on-hand.  Unlike all of the other statewide elected officials, Schultz already has an opponent in Brad Anderson, the Obama campaign’s Iowa Campaign manager.

Republican activists are pleased with the job Schultz has does as Secretary of State, but he now needs to parlay that good will into campaign cash.  Schultz is a marked man, and Democrats are motivated to remove him from office to end his push for voter ID and put an end to the prosecution of individuals who shouldn’t be allowed to vote.  The issues are on Schultz’ side, but he must raise an ample amount of money to make sure his record is not distorted in the upcoming election.

Statewide Democrats Cash-on-hand

Attorney General Tom Miller: $19,847.86

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D)

Iowa Democrats retained control of the Iowa Senate, but Gronstal basically had to empty his campaign account in the process.  Holding the majority in the Senate was well worth it to Iowa Democrats, but Gronstal has just $41,183.18 in the bank heading into 2013.  Two years ago at this time, Gronstal had $148,880 in his campaign account.  This is significant because Republicans in the senate now have a competent leader who has a proven record of raising money.  For the past decade, Gronstal was able to amass large amounts of money to spend on election efforts while Republicans were always scrambling to put two pennies together.  Those days are likely over.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix (R)

Dix raised $281,277.00 in 2012 for the Republican effort in the Senate despite not holding a leadership spot.  He ended the year with $23,907.04 in the bank, but more importantly, he can now start raising money for the 2014 campaign, which should allow him to keep pace with Gronstal.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson serves as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prior to founding Iowa's largest conservative news site, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In that capacity, Robinson planned and organized the largest political event in 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa. Robinson also organized the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa, and was later dispatched to Nevada to help with the caucuses there. Robinson cut his teeth in Iowa politics during the 2000 caucus campaign of businessman Steve Forbes and has been involved with most major campaigns in the state since then. His extensive political background and rolodex give him a unique perspective from which to monitor the political pulse of Iowa.

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