Even before Mark Jacobs officially entered the U.S. Senate race in Iowa, he had an advantage over the others seeking the Republican nomination. Jacobs’ personal wealth, combined with his willingness to spend some of that wealth, allowed him to assemble a large campaign team and start advertising while the other candidates need to raise the necessary money before hiring or expanding their staffs, and some of them may never be able to fund a substantial statewide TV buy.
Campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission show that, since launching an exploratory campaign in June through the end of the year, Jacobs spent $321,037.99 on his U.S. Senate effort. He loaned his campaign another $200,000 in mid-December raising the total amount that he has invested into his campaign to over $521,000.
None of this is much of a surprise. Jacobs’s has been labeled a “self-funder” by a number of different publications, and his opponents infer that he’s attempting to buy the Republican nomination. They are also quick to point to examples of where candidates who largely fund their campaigns themselves have not been successful, such as John Brunner’s candidacy in Missouri in 2012.
Brunner lost to Congressman Todd Akin by six points. Brunner pumped in over $7.8 million into his primary effort, which makes Jacobs’ $521,000 look insignificant thus far into the race. While it is true that there is more to winning a primary than just money, one must remember that Jacobs isn’t running against a member of Congress or a statewide elected official. In a race of relative unknowns, Jacobs’ ability to advertise and run what looks to be a substantial statewide campaign makes him the frontrunner in the race.
Jacobs’ FEC report also shows that he was able to raise a significant amount of money to go along with the money he poured into his campaign himself. In the 42 days that he was an official candidate in the race from November 19th to December 31st, Jacobs raised $406,541 from individuals. Of the nearly $1 million that his campaign took in, over 43 percent of it is from individuals.
A further examination of Jacobs’ FEC report shows that the bulk of the money he raised, 60 percent of it came from the state of Texas. Jacobs, who was recently the CEO of Houston-based Reliant Energy, raised $244,700 in the lone-star state. Iowans accounted for about 31 percent of the money Jacobs raised from individuals, around $125,100 from Iowans. That amount alone is more than Sam Clovis and Matt Whitaker raised in the entire fourth quarter of 2013.
Jacobs also raised most of his money in big chunks. In Texas, the average size of contribution was $1,942.06, in Iowa it was $1,454.64, in the handful of other states what he received contributions from, the average contribution amount was $1867.85. Large contributions are great, but campaign also have to develop a small donors too if they hope to remain successful in the fundraising department.
Out-of-state money has been prevalent in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Iowa. Forty-seven percent of the money Joni Ernst raised in her initial fundraising quarter was from out-of-state donors. Out-of-state donors made up 67 percent of David Young’s contributions in his initial fundraising period. Young has ended his candidacy for the U.S. Senate to instead run for the now-open Third Congressional District seat. Twenty-one percent of the contributions coming into Matt Whitaker’s campaign in his initial fundraising period were from out-of-state donors as well.
Jacobs’ moving back to Iowa in 2012 has been an underlying issue is the U.S. Senate race. Yet, the $125,000 he raised in Iowa basically matched what Ernst has raised in the state in her initial fundraising period, and is quite a bit more than Whitaker and Clovis raised in their first fundraising periods from Iowans.
Combing through these U.S. Senate reports is a time-consuming and tedious task, but one thing that the Jacobs campaign should feel really good about is how well they were able to fundraise in communities outside of Des Moines. Jacobs’ report sports some impressive names in communities such as Dubuque and Sioux City. With the other candidates have been officially in the race a lot longer than Jacobs, his ability to get significant financial support from some of the top donors in these communities either tells us something about Jacobs or the other candidates in the race.
For Jacobs, it’s apparent that he makes a good impression with people when meeting them one-on-one and is impressive enough to get these major donors to donate large sums of money to his campaign. For the other candidates, it seems as if they have not put forth the effort to try and personally meet with these donors or they have, and the donors came away unimpressed.
Now, donors are wired differently from most activists. The most import quality a lot of donors look for in a candidate is the ability to win in the general election, and this is where Jacobs’ ability to build a large campaign and be on TV and radio early is helping him to be perceived as the candidate who can best go toe-to-toe with Congressman Bruce Braley.
The money Jacobs raised and where he raised it tells us something, but his campaign expenditures also tell a story. Jacobs has assembled a large campaign team that is heavy on Iowa and Texas consultants. Davenport-based Victory Enterprises is handling the day-to-day management of the campaign. VE’s president, Brian Dumas is the campaign manager, the campaign also purchases other goods from the firm.
Two Rivers Capital is helping the Jacobs campaign raise money. Two Rivers is an Iowa based fundraising firm owned by Nick Ryan. G & S Resources, out of Lake Mills, Iowa is consulting the campaign. The “G” Stands for Doug Gross, and the “S” stands for Rich Schwarm, both longtime associates and friends of Governor Terry Branstad.
The Jacobs’ team of consultants also has Texas flavor to it. Scott Howell, a Dallas-based media consultant, is Jacobs’ ad man. Howell has a pretty impressive resume. Jacobs’ pollster is also from Texas. David Hill knows Iowa well since he also serves as Governor Branstad’s pollster.
Hill Research Consultants doesn’t appear on Jacobs’ financial disclosure, but perhaps that company was paid from G & S Resources since Jacobs paid that group over $107,000 since June. Just over $20,000 is what a good statewide poll will cost, and three expenditures of that amount were made to G&S Resources during that timeframe. It’s not inconceivable that Jacobs would have done three polls in that time frame. What’s odd is that Jacobs isn’t paying Hill directly, but perhaps that will change since he’s now an announced candidate.
The report also suggests that Jacobs kicked the tires on a couple of different campaign managers before settling on Dumas and Victory Enterprises. Jacobs paid Ed Valentine two payments of $13,000. Valentine, another Texan, doesn’t have much history working U.S. Senate campaigns, but he did work in Iowa for Strong America Now, an issue advocacy group that was very active during the 2012 presidential caucus campaign.
The Jacobs campaign also reimbursed Dick Wadhams for expenses, which suggests that he was also under consideration for the job. Wadhams, a Republican consultant from Colorado, is best known for guiding John Thune’s campaign against Tom Daschle.
While Jacobs’ FEC report is the focus of this article, on Monday the Weekly Standard highlighted a couple of contributions that Jacobs made that appeared on other candidates’ FEC reports. Jacobs’s contribution to Democrat U.S. Senator Arlen Specter has already been campaign fodder for his opponents. The Weekly Standard reported that Jacobs also donated to the U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Jon Corzine of New Jersey. At the time, Corzine was the CEO of the company that Jacobs worked for in New York City.
Alissa Ohl, the spokesperson for Jacobs campaign, told the Weekly Standard, “Mark gave Corzine a contribution when he was CEO of the company which employed Mark. Mark gave him no subsequent contributions and remains very disappointed at the [sic] Corzine’s performance as a public official.”
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