US Senate

February 14th, 2014

A Snapshot of the Fiscal Health of the U.S. Senate Campaigns – The Weekly Round Up

The FEC reports for each of the U.S. Senate candidates are all publically available.  The Des Moines Register recently published an article that called the race a virtual tie since the candidates had similar cash on hand numbers at the end of the year.  That’s a stretch to say the least.  Here is my read on the financial status of each of the candidates.

State Senator Joni Ernst

Ernst ended the year with $289,514.91 cash on hand.  Of that, $78,480 is restricted for use in the general election, which means her cash on hand for the primary is really slightly more than $211,000.

Based on her year-end report, it appears that Ernst had about $25,000 in bills from 2013 than she chose to deal with after the reporting period.  So Ernst really had about $186,000 at the first of the year in her account.

Ernst’s monthly burn rate starting in January of this year with staff, consultants and overhead is at least $30,000 a month, she spent more than that in the fourth quarter of 2013, but lets just play it safe and stick with the $30,000.

Assuming she maintains her current overhead, that leaves her with about $36,000 she could dedicate towards paid media at this point.  That’s enough to shoot an ad, but not get it on TV.

Some prominent females were on Ernst’s fundraising report.

We all know that Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds supports Ernst, but so does her predecessor, former Lt. Governor Joy Corning.  Corning contributed $250 to Ernst’s campaign.  Des Moines City Councilwoman Christine Hensley donated $250 as well.  Weight loss guru Jenny Craig donated $3,600.

Matt Whitaker

Whitaker ended the year with $232,092.45 cash-on-hand, of which, $28,525 can only be used for the General Election.   Additionally, Whitaker loaned his campaign $50,0000, which most people believe he never intends to spend.  It looks like he has a minimum of $15,000 in bills from 2013 that we’re not paid before the end of the year.  Based on those assumptions, that leaves Whitaker with basically $139,000 that he could spend as of the beginning of the year.

Sam Clovis

Clovis ended the year with $24,010.64 cash-on-hand.  Only $160 of that is restricted for the general election.  His FEC report showed that he had outstanding bills totaling $10,978 and probably had at least $5,000 in carry-over expenses coming into the New Year.  Best-case scenario, Clovis had about $8,000 to spend as of the end of year.

His spending averaged about $31,750 a month in the last quarter, so at that rate, he’ll struggle to keep his head above water.  The Clovis campaign isn’t built on spending money, but even his campaign has commitments it has to honor unless his consultants are willing to work for free.

Mark Jacobs

I documented Jacobs’ initial FEC report here.  Unlike the other candidates, his ability to self-fund his campaign makes looking at his cash-on-hand numbers and burn rates meaningless.  Unless one of the other candidates finds a quick infusion of cash, it doesn’t look like Jacobs is going to have to share the airwaves with any of his competitors.

Robert Cramer and the Gas Tax

I attended a meet and greet event for 3rd District Congressional candidate Robert Cramer last night.  It was a nice event, good crowd, and pleasant conversations.  The 3rd District race is fascinating for a number of reasons.  First there are five good candidates, the race is more of a sprint than a marathon, and anything could happen, including a nominating convention if no candidate reaches the 35 percent threshold in the primary.

I wouldn’t classify Cramer as a front-runner, but he reminded the folks at the event last night of his advantages.  Cramer is the only businessman in the Republican field.  His association with the FAMiLY Leader gives him instant credibility with social conservatives.  Cramer’s connections to the construction industry give him a natural fundraising base.

If Cramer puts together a solid campaign team, he’s going to be a player in the primary, especially since he has stated that he’s willing to invest some of his own money to get his campaign going.  While he’s not a polished politician, voters might not be looking for a silver-tonged candidate.

I did find it interesting that Cramer voluntarily brought up his support for increasing the state’s gas tax.  Cramer obviously knows this will be an issue in the race so he might as well get out in front of it.  Cramer said that just like it’s immoral to pass along to the next generation mountains of debt, and it’s also immoral to ignore infrastructure needs.

Cramer then took a position very similar to Governor Terry Branstad by saying that he would prefer that an increase in the gas tax be offset with a tax cut in another area.

A TIR Tidbit was just a week old when I first wrote about Robert Cramer.  This is from March 11, 2009.

The other person who caught people’s attention was Robert Cramer, who served as the master of ceremonies of the event. Cramer is the President/Chief Administrative Officer of Cramer & Associates, a Des Moines based construction firm, which specializes in bridges, culverts and dams. Cramer & Associates built two of the three blue basket handled arched pedestrian bridges in Des Moines.

Some people in the room were wondering if Mr. Cramer might have any political ambitions someday. Cramer is a young, articulate businessman who’s obviously socially conservative and has all the markings of an ideal candidate to the people at the ICA event last night.

So I ran into Vander Plaats last night…

We had a nice conversation as always, but I didn’t get the sense that an announcement is eminent.  Those looking for a Saturday announcement may be disappointed.

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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