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April 17th, 2014

Zaun’s Poor Fundraising Performance Shakes Up Third District Race

The campaign finance disclosures for the Republican candidates in the Third Congressional District are all in, and as I expected, the results tell us a lot about where the race stands today.

Brad Zaun, the perceived frontrunner after having won a contested primary in a congressional district that included Polk County, posted a disappointing number.  Zaun’s underwhelming fundraising numbers combined with a quickly approaching primary day on June 3rd, basically mean the race is wide open.  Zaun will remain a factor in the race, but three candidates, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Robert Cramer, and Monte Shaw have all shown that they are aggressively campaigning for the Republican nomination.

How the candidates stack up with total dollars raised:

1. Robert Cramer: $212,653.00
2. Monte Shaw: $203,937.09
3. Matt Schultz: $170,949.57
4. David Young: $77,991.29
5. Brad Zaun: $56,746.00

While the fundraising numbers and expenditure reports provide us with an idea of how active each of the campaigns has been in the first three months of the year, one also can’t overlook the importance that name I.D. and geography will play in the race.  While Brad Zaun’s fundraising numbers are anemic, he’s still the best known candidate in the race, and his deep Polk County roots will still give him a boost on election day.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz is the second best-known candidate.  Having held statewide public office for the past three years, he has improved his name ID, and his public fight for a voter I.D. law has made him a favorite among Republican activists.  Robert Cramer and Monte Shaw are lesser known, but they are running impressive campaigns that are attempting to correct that problem by running radio and TV ads.

The fifth candidate, David Young, has not seen his fortunes change since ending his U.S. Senate campaign and running for congress in the Third District.  Young’s cash on hand number is solid, but his fundraising has slowed and a large portion of the money he has available came as a personal loan.

Below is a breakdown of the fundraising efforts of each of the five candidates in the race.  We begin with Zaun because it is his report that has changed the tenor of the campaign.

Brad Zaun

State Senator Brad Zaun proved that he was a formidable congressional candidate in the 2010 Republican primary in the Third Congressional District.  Despite being outspent in a four-way Republican primary, Zaun cruised to victory largely on his strong name I.D. and reputation in Polk County.  Even though Zaun’s losing performance in the 2010 general election has taken some of the wind out of his sails for his 2014 race, Zaun’s name I.D. and Polk County roots still make him the man to beat in the Republican primary this June.

The fact that Zaun’s presence in the 2014 Third District race didn’t scare anyone away from seeking the Republican nomination tells you something about how Zaun is being perceived this time around, but his initial fundraising numbers also indicate that he’s not the same candidate he was back in 2010.

In the first quarter of 2014, Zaun’s campaign raised just $56,746, significantly less than all of his his primary opponents.  In his initial fundraising report for his 2010 run for congress, Zaun raised just $30,600, but he raised all of that in less than one month, and it was in December, which is a difficult month to raise money for a campaign.

While Zaun’s fundraising is concerning, so too is the lack of activity on his campaign.  Zaun’s fundraising report showed only three expenditures – two to a wedding planner in Nashville, Tennessee who is raising money for his campaign, and the other to Ryan Keller, his campaign manager.

It’s somewhat unbelievable that Zaun would only have expenditures to two entities in a campaign that started two months ago.  Further more, Zaun’s campaign released an impressive web video, which was filmed at his campaign announcement.  There was an entire film crew at Zaun’s campaign announcement, yet nowhere in Zaun’s report is there an expenditure or in-kind contribution for their services. Zaun’s report also shows that his campaign doesn’t have any outstanding debt.  Something doesn’t add up.

Of all the candidates in the race, Zaun is the most known, and his 2010 campaign should have provided him with an existing donor file that he could solicit for his 2014 campaign.   Initially, I thought Zaun’s fundraising number was low because he paid off his $22,000 in debts from his 2010 campaign.  However, Zaun wasn’t being truthful when he told in early February that he had paid off his 2010 debts.  Zaun also must file fundraising reports from his 2010 campaign, which show no fundraising activity and no effort to repay his debts.

Update: Zaun’s campaign has filed a new disclosure that shows that all of his previous campaign debt has been forgiven.  Zaun’s 2010 campaign committee has now been terminated.

Zaun’s underwhelming fundraising effort means that the Republican primary in Iowa’s Third District is wide open.  Had Zaun been competitive in the fundraising race, it would have been his race to lose.  Not only did he underperform, but his weak fundraising numbers give candidates like Cramer, Schultz, and Shaw more legitimacy with donors and voters.

Robert Cramer

In the crowded Third District Republican primary, Robert Cramer is the only candidate thus far who has run television and radio ads.  Cramer is also the candidate who has sent out the most persuasion mail.  While it would be incorrect to label Cramer as the frontrunner in the race, his campaign is firing on all cylinders and is off to an impressive start.

Cramer’s campaign raised $167,653 in the first quarter of the year, and he loaned his campaign an additional $45,000.  In total, Cramer’s campaign brought in over $212,000.  It’s an impressive number, but not all that much different from Monte Shaw who raised just over $203,000 or Secretary of State Matt Schultz who raised $170,000.

Most of the money Cramer raised is from the construction industry.  Cramer, the owner of a bridge building company in Des Moines, is the former president of the Iowa Associated General Contractors.  Cramer was also able to raise money from influential social conservatives like Bob Vander Plaats, who gave Cramer’s campaign a contribution for $2,600.  Cramer is the former Chairman of the Board of Vander Plaats’ pro-family group, The FAMiLY Leader.  Despite the close connection between the two men, Vander Plaats is listed in Cramer’s report as “Robert Plaats.”

Cramer’s campaign has the appearance of being a formidable campaign, but his first financial report does include a couple red flags.  Cramer’s cash on hand number on April 1st was $78,736.32, which is significantly less than Schultz and Shaw.  Cramer’s cash on hand number is irrelevant if he is willing to self-fund a portion of his campaign, but only time will tell how much of his own money he is actually willing to commit to the race.

Thus far, Cramer has loaned his campaign $45,000 – including $10,000 back on January 30th, and an additional $35,000 in late March.  The way Cramer is helping fund his campaign is a lot different than how Mark Jacobs is funding his U.S. Senate campaign.  According to his year-end financial disclosure, Jacobs has loaned his campaign $200,000, but given it an additional $321,000.

Personal money can make a big difference in a campaign.  Cramer seems to have given a little money to his campaign to get things started and then added some more to help cover his television buy.  That gives him an advantage over his competitors, but unless Cramer is willing to put substantially more money into the race, most of the Republican Third District campaigns are going to be on equal footing when it comes to money.  Cramer has increased his presence on TV in April, which seems to indicate that he is continuing to fundraise or is willing to put more of his own money into his campaign.

Cramer doesn’t come into the race with the same level of name I.D. as State Senator Brad Zaun or Schultz, meaning that he will need to spend significantly more than both of those individuals in order to neutralize their advantage.

Monte Shaw

If there is a candidate in the Third District race that’s ecstatic about his fundraising performance, it’s Monte Shaw.  Shaw raised an impressive $203,937.09, all of which can be used in the primary campaign.  Shaw also reported having $168,445.64 cash on hand.  That’s over $50,000 more than Schultz has in primary cash, and $90,000 more than Cramer.  That’s a significant advantage since the primary is now about six weeks away.  The only caveat is that Cramer has been loaning his campaign money, so Shaw might not have as big of a primary money advantage as he thinks he does.

As was expected, Shaw raised a significant amount of money from the renewable fuels industry.  Shaw raised over $38,000 from various ethanol industry political action committees.  Shaw is the Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, and thus he has a pre-existing relationship with members of this industry.  Shaw’s fundraising haul is impressive considering that he’s never run for office before, but it’s clear that his involvement in political campaigns has been an asset to his congressional campaign.

While Shaw’s initial fundraising haul is impressive, he’s going to need to spend every dollar he raised and more to become better known to voters in the district.  Shaw’s involvement with the Renewable Fuels Association and the Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee has made him known to key players in both organizations.  However, in order for him to be successful in the Third District primary, he’s needs to become better known to Republican primary voters, a significant percentage of which are not involved in Republican party county organizations or the renewable fuels industry.

Shaw has already begun running radio ads across the district, and it probably won’t be long until he launches his first TV ad.  Like Cramer, Shaw needs to become better known quickly.  Cramer has been running TV ads for weeks already, and Schultz just unveiled a TV ad of his own.  Shaw needs to join the fray soon.

Matt Schultz

Matt Schultz surprised a lot of people when he defeated an incumbent Secretary of State with a limited budget in 2010.  Now the 34 year-old Schultz has his eye on the Third District Congressional seat being vacated by Congressman Tom Latham.  Schultz is no longer an underdog, but he’s not necessarily the frontrunner either.  While Brad Zaun is the most known candidate in the race, Schultz’ time as Secretary of State has increased is name I.D. and brand, especially with conservative activists.

Schultz raised $170,949.57 in the first quarter of 2014, and on April 1st had $136,645.31 cash on hand.  Schultz can use almost all of that money in the primary. Of the $170,000 that Schultz raised, only $20,200 of it is restricted for use in the general election.  That means Schultz has $116,445.31 available to spend in the primary.

Schultz’s campaign disclosure also indicates that he’s getting some outside support from influential outside groups.  For example, the Senate Conservatives Fund has solicited its donors on Schultz’s behalf, which raised him $12,799.00.  The group also made a $5000 contribution to the campaign and spent nearly $11,000 on an independent expenditure supporting Schultz.

This isn’t the first time a third party group has gotten involved in a congressional primary in Iowa.  In 2002, the Club for Growth played a major role in the Republican primary in an effort to help Steve King win his crowded primary.  The Club for Growth spent a lot of money on that race, and we will have to wait and see if the Senate Conservative Fund is going to be a major player in Schultz’s race.  Still, getting that kind of third party support early in this race is a luxury that none of Schultz opponents have.

With Zaun’s poor fundraising numbers, Schultz finds himself well positioned in the Third District race.  Still, with Cramer and Shaw running impressive campaigns and showing the ability to raise or invest significant funds into their campaigns, it’s imperative for Schultz to keep pace when it comes to fundraising.

David Young

David Young opted to end his campaign for the U.S. Senate at the end of 2013 and instead decided to run for the Republican nomination in the Third Congressional District.  Unfortunately for Young, the congressional race hasn’t been any easier for him.

In the first quarter of 2014, Young’s campaign raised just $77,991.29.  His campaign has a decent cash on hand number of $132,845, but Young’s campaign also has debts and obligations of $70,755.95, $50,000 of which was a loan from the candidate on December 30th of last year.  When you subtract Young’s debt and obligations from his cash on hand number, that gives him only $62,090 to spend between now and primary day.  Young could spend the entire $132,000, but with his prospects in the primary not looking too bright, it’s hard to see him actually incurring personal debt from his campaign.

Young’s initial fundraising in his U.S. Senate campaign was solid, but as the race has gone on, it’s easy to see that he has exhausted his network of donors.  This often happens to a candidate who doesn’t catch on in a primary.  Young is a good guy, and people genuinely like him, but 2014 doesn’t seem like it’s his year.

Photo by Dave Davidson,

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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