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House Republicans continue to lead campaign fundraising Print E-mail
by Will Lutz    Sun, Oct 31, 2010, 09:49 pm

Republicans continue to lead the fundraising race for Texas House, according to Eight-Day reports filed Oct. 26 with the Texas Ethics Commission.

The reports cover campaign contributions and spending Sept. 24-Oct.23. The late donation and spending patterns show how Campaign 2010 is unfolding in its final days and what races are red-hot, compared with races where Democrats are cutting their losses.

A few trends on the campaign finance reports -- which started on the 30-day reports and intensified with the 8-Day reports -- are different from those in past election cycles. Here are a few key observations:

The timing of the contributions to the two parties' candidates seems the reverse of that two years ago. In 2008, Republican candidates got their money very late in the cycle -- too late to use for early voting. Several GOP consultants worried that any money tied to former GOP Speaker Tom Craddick or some of the major GOP donors would be radioactive. So a lot of Republican-leaning PACs and givers contributed after early voting.

This cycle, Republicans placed more emphasis on early voting. Candidates got their money early. And turnout figures show early voting numbers are off the charts, particularly in Harris County. So the decision by Republicans to give early seems to be paying benefits.

This cycle, the major Democratic givers (mostly plaintiffs' attorneys) gave after the 30-day reports. Democratic candidates are getting money late.

While the Democratic money is not necessarily as radioactive this cycle as Craddick money was in 2008 (chalk that up to media bias), Republicans have done a good job trying to make it so. True to its usual pattern, Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC (TLR) is helping reporters connect the dots and discover the high percentage of plaintiffs’ attorney money into Democratic campaigns.

Additionally, the plaintiffs' bar is trying to cover up the amount of attorneys fees in the Hurricane Ike settlement between the state-financed Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and Galveston-county policy holders. The bar’s fight against Rep. Larry Taylor's (R-Friendswood) request for information makes controversial any contribution from an attorney associated with that lawsuit.

The Republican financing mechanism is more diverse and more effective this cycle. In 2006 and 2008, most Republican money came from a handful of individual donors, from then-Speaker Tom Craddick's Stars Over Texas PAC, or from TLR. And there was significant overlap involving the three, in terms of where the money came from and how it was spent.

This cycle, there is a much greater diversity, and Republican-leaning organizations are complementing each other. The Associated Republicans of Texas has been more active than ever this cycle. The Republican Party of Texas has also emerged as a significant (six figures to House campaigns) donor. Both ART and the Republican Party are contributing significantly to races that may be lower on TLR's priority list (Or in the case of the Patrick Rose -- Jason Isaac race, TLR is backing the Democrat).

Additionally, Speaker Joe Straus’ decision to focus on insuring that Republican incumbents are well-funded frees up other sources of GOP money to focus on beating Democratic incumbents.

In short, the GOP money is controlled by a wider variety of sources, with a different mission. Mechanically, that appears to be a more effective way of running a campaign for the GOP.

Down-the-stretch donation decisions provide a window showing which races are hot and which aren't. Democrats are clearly cutting their losses in the race between Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) and Loretta Haldenwang. Of LSR's Top-10 races, the Haldenwang campaign is the only one that raised less than $100,000.

It also appears that Democrats may be cutting their losses in the contest involving Rep. Kristi Thibaut (D-Houston), as she reports substantially less than the other endangered Democratic incumbents.

Democrats are throwing everything they can into their effort to save Reps. Carol Kent (D-Dallas) and Joe Heflin (D-Crosbyton).

Now, a glance at where the money is going. The chart below shows campaign funds raised, spent, and cash-on-hand in LSR's Top-11 races this cycle. The chart reflects only those figures on the Eight-Day Report accessed from the Texas Ethics Commission's website prior to publication. Telegram reports or donations reported on the 30-day report are not included.

Also, here are some key trends from both the major Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning givers:

Republican-leaning PACs. Because of its past role as one of the leading backers of Republican candidates (and the plaintiffs’ bar's role as the largest funder of Democrats), we start with TLR.

TLR reported $2.9 million in expenditures on its eight-day report and still has $1.9 million on hand. Based on our review, it appears TLR gave more than $90,000 to Stefani Carter, Cindy Burkett, Bill Zedler, Erwin Cain, Jim Landtroop, George Lavender, Larry Gonzales, Jose Aliseda, Marva Beck, Connie Scott, and Dee Margo. In particular, TLR poured lots of money into the Zedler, Landtroop, Gonzales, and Beck races.

The Associated Republicans of Texas reported spending $1.04 million on the eight-day report. It appears ART spent more than $50,000 on Carter, Burkett, Landtroop, Workman, Scott, Lavender, James White, Aliseda, Beck, and Raul Torres.

The Republican Party of Texas reported spending $1.06 million this cycle. It gave more than $50,000 to Burkett, Scott, Jason Isaac, Cain, White, Landtroop, Gonzales, Carter, Rep. Joe Driver (R-Garland), and Workman.

The Conservative Republicans of Texas was extremely active with in-kind contributions. Also, homebuilder Bob Perry and his wife gave a lot of five-figure checks to conservative Republican candidates.

Democratic-leaning PACs. Texans for Insurance Reform, an organization funded largely by plaintiffs' lawyers, reports spending $1.34 million. It gave donations of more than $50,000 to Reps. Robert Miklos (D-Mesquite), Carol Kent (D-Dallas) Chris Turner (D-Arlington), Joe Heflin (D-Crosbyton), Diana Maldonado (D-Round Rock), Jim Dunnam (D-Waco), Stephen Frost (D-New Boston), Valinda Bolton (D-Austin), and Joe Moody (D-El Paso) as well as challengers Rick Molina, Jamie Dooris, and John Mabry.

Annie's List -- a group promoting pro-abortion Democratic women -- reports spending $350,000 on the Eight-day report. It gave more than $50,000 to Kent and Maldonado.

The Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee spent $900,000. It gave more than $50,000 to Moody, Maldonado, Kent, Heflin, Miklos, Mabry, and Dooris.

Also, North Texas dentist David Alameel dropped $900,000 in the North Texas leadership PAC that, not surprisingly, contributed generously to Democrats in North Texas (and Maldonado).

One group that was much less active this cycle was the Texas Parent PAC and HEB grocery store owner Charles Butt.

On the gambling front, the Chickasaw Nation dropped a lot of money this cycle. The slot machine at horseracing track PAC Texans for Economic Development gave $55,000 to candidates in both parties.

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