Last updated: Sun. Jul. 27, 2014 - 12:08 am EDT
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, has topped $1 million in contributions to his campaign for a third full term on Capitol Hill.
His Democratic opponent in the Nov. 4 general election, Justin Kuhnle, has collected just $4,504 in donations.
If it seems that Stutzman is pulling in far more money than he needs to win re-election in heavily Republican northeast Indiana, he is hardly alone.
Three other Hoosier congressmen in seemingly safe districts – Republican Reps. Todd Young, Todd Rokita and Susan Brooks – have raised more money than Stutzman has. So has Rep. Jackie Walorski, although she seeks a second term in the usually competitive 2nd District.
The incumbent who has raised the least amount in contributions has been in office the longest. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-1st, first elected 30 years ago, had brought in about $723,000 through the end of June. But his Republican opponent in the northwest Indiana district had received only $300.
Of this year’s major-party challengers in Indiana’s nine congressional districts, only one has lured funds in six figures: Walorski’s rival in her South Bend-area district, Democrat Joe Bock. But his $504,000 is a paltry sum compared with her $1.47 million. She has spent more than he has raised and had $901,000 in the bank on June 30.
What gives? Are House members intentionally running up the score on outmatched adversaries?
They don’t have to – special-interest political action committees are doing it for them, according to IPFW political scientist Michael Wolf. And he said the PACs are less interested in broad election results than in trying to influence legislation drafted by congressional committees.
“Americans tend to think of PACs and interests as donating to a ton of candidates to buy votes, but in most cases, PACs focus on those who support their interest or direct money to incumbents on committees that deal with the legislation affecting their interest,” Wolf said in an email response to questions about the latest round of campaign finance reports.
“The research demonstrates it’s a matter of gaining access rather than buying votes. … It makes perfect sense to invest donations to where it matters most rather than writing checks pell-mell all over Washington,” he said.
More than half of Stutzman’s campaign money in the current election cycle – nearly $575,000 – has come from PACs, many of them associated with the financial services industry. Stutzman is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
His campaign contributors during the second quarter of this year included PACs for associations representing banks, credit unions, accountants, insurance agents and financial advisers, as well as PACs for Aflac, American Express, Bank of America, Citigroup, Ersnt & Young, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Quicken Loans and Wells Fargo.
A 2012 study by the Sunlight Foundation and NPR found that Financial Services is the second-most lucrative House committee for luring campaign contributions, following only the Ways and Means Committee. The only Hoosier House members to collect more PAC donations in this election cycle than Stutzman are Young, a member of Ways and Means, and Walorski. The committees of which she is a member – Armed Services, Budget and Veterans’ Affairs – ranked between eighth and 15th as money magnets, but again, she represents a swing district that draws a lot of attention and money.
Wolf said that Stutzman “also receives significant donations from large donors relative to small donors, which matches his position on (Financial Services) and as a up-and-coming member of his party’s caucus.
So as his name ends up in discussions about leadership positions and in Politico, it also ends up on many databases and among the meet-and-greet donor crowd in Washington.”
PACs for Independent Community Bankers, Koch Industries and Raytheon each has given $10,000 to Stutzman’s campaign for the 2013-14 election cycle, the maximum allowed by the Federal Election Commission.
Close behind are PACs for the Appraisal Institute and PriceWaterhouseCoopers at $9,500 and the American Financial Services Association at $9,000.
Stutzman’s campaign also received donations in the second quarter from companies in medical (Cook Group, Medtronic, WellPoint, Zimmer), defense (BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon) and steel (Arcelormittal, Nucor). All have operations in Indiana, some in the 3rd District.
For the second quarter, Stutzman raised $192,000 in total contributions, with more than $142,000 coming from PACs. He spent more than $136,000 and finished the period with nearly $489,000 in the bank.
In the same period, Kuhnle raised $3,789 in contributions, none of it from PACs. The bulk of his contributions – $2,500 – came from the Indiana Democratic Party. He spent $836 and finished the quarter with $544 in cash.
Kuhnle is a social worker who lives in Kendallville. Stutzman is a corn and soybean farmer who lives in Howe. The FEC website shows no campaign finance report filed for the third candidate in the 3rd District, Libertarian Scott Wise of Columbia City.