Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hennepin County Campaign Finance Reports - People Vs. PACs

 Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photos from the MN Sun.

(Two disclaimers:  first is that I am not a neutral party here and readers should be aware of that.  Second, if I have misread or misinterpreted any items on these reports, I will correct those mistakes.  I was once a treasurer of an organization's PAC, but haven't dealt with such reports in close to ten years.)

As we get closer to election day, I thought it would be revealing to take a look at the contributions that have gone to both Linda Higgins and Blong Yang in their contest for Hennepin County Commissioner.  What I found was surprising.  For instance...

...Blong Yang has, on paper at least, actually outraised Linda Higgins.  This is a technicality though, since Yang has lent his own funds towards the campaign.  Taking away the $35,000 he has put towards this election, Higgins' finances would appear to indicate more constituent support.

But appearances can be deceiving.  As we delve into more details, the reports tell us about each of the candidates.  There are two filing periods - a pre-primary campaign finance report, and a pre-general one.  In the pre-primary report, Yang received over two hundred twenty donations from individuals and businesses.  He received no donations from lobbyists or Political Action Committees.  None.  Every single cent of his campaign income came from $23,000 in contributions and $15,000 of his own funds.

In his second report, Yang took in $42,000 - $22,000 in contributions and another twenty in loans to his campaign.  This time, the volume of his donors dipped to seventy-one, although again these were all from people and businesses.

(These reports, I should add, only list those who donated $100 or more.  On Yang's campaign Facebook page, he states that he received an additional 147 unique donors.  I do not have a similar number for Higgins available at the time of this publication.)

Contrast that with Linda Higgins' reports.  In the pre-primary report, she garnered $36,000 from fifty-six different contributors.  Fourteen were PACs, eight were registered lobbyists, and thirty-four were real human beings.  $9,300 came from PAC and lobbyist donations.

Her pre-general election report shows income of $33,600 from one hundred twenty-four sources.  However, that particular spreadsheet includes people and entities that donated at multiple times.  It seems, from my layman's reading of the report, that it might be more accurate to say that 124 total people contributed to the campaign.  Out of that tally, thirty-seven were PACs, fourteen were lobbyists, and the remainder were regular folks.  In the second report, Higgins took in over $10,000 from PAC and lobbyist sources.

I tried not to pay too much attention to the names of individual donors, on the grounds that regular people should be encouraged to give to campaigns of their choosing, and I don't wish to use my blog to discourage that in any way.  But two names on Higgins' reports jumped out at me.  Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf each donated $250.

To be fair, not every personal donation came from someone within the district - or within the state, for that matter.  But when you take away the personal loans to a campaign and the contributions from PACs/lobbyists, Higgins has the edge in dollars raised and Yang leads in numbers of individual donors.

What this contrast tells me is that Yang has spent more time reaching out to voters, and if elected, that's who he will feel more beholden to.  That's the kind of candidate I support.

Yang pre-primary report
Yang pre-general report
Higgins pre-primary report
Higgins pre-general report


  1. I usually vote for the hottest candidate. Sort of like playing Hot or Not in real life. In this case I had to go for Linda Higgins as i'm a dude. I hope she does a great job.

    1. What a stud! Excellent way to diminish two great candidates. This must be the way Bachmann and Palin got support.


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