Kansas Republicans largely self-funding campaigns in 2nd District congressional race

photo by: Associated Press

In this Sept. 5, 2017, photo, the Capitol is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

TOPEKA — Republicans running in the 2nd District congressional race have put more money into their own campaigns, either in the form of loans or direct contributions, than they have raised through contributions.

Federal campaign finance reports that detail total fundraising through June 30 show that the seven active candidates have raised a total of $711,710 during the entire campaign cycle, which began Jan. 1, 2017, while their campaigns have borrowed more than $1 million, either directly from the candidates themselves or from other sources.

And although that may be unusual for a congressional race in Kansas, University of Kansas political science professor Patrick Miller said it’s becoming more and more common around the country.

“This is something that has been increasingly the norm since the ’90s,” Miller said in an interview. “The trend is more candidates self-funding, and that self-funding is getting larger.”

Miller said the trend has escalated even more since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the case that legalized unlimited corporate spending through third-party campaigns and so-called “Super PACs.”

While in years past candidates would tout their fundraising totals to indicate the level of public support they were receiving, Miller said now the totals are used as a signal to Super PACs about how much money a campaign can spend on its own, regardless of where the money comes from.

“I’ve said before, running for office is for rich people,” Miller said. “It is an expensive game to play. And with the prices that are out there (for campaign costs), it attracts candidates who can write themselves a check.”

By that measure, Sen. Caryn Tyson, of Parker, finished the second quarter on June 30 in the strongest financial position with $400,494 in cash on hand. Tyson loaned her campaign a little more than $205,000 of her own money and has raised $263,624 in contributions, including another $13,054 that she donated directly.

Military veteran Steve Watkins, of Topeka, had the second largest war chest at the end of the period, with $376,176 in the bank. Watkins, however, loaned $475,100 of his own money to the campaign and has raised only $139,102 through contributions the entire election cycle.

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, of Leavenworth, had the third largest war chest at the end of the period, with $290,838 in the bank. He, however, has taken out $300,000 in loans while raising only $144,680 from contributors.

Another state senator, Dennis Pyle, of Hiawatha, who didn’t get into the race until May 23, had the biggest fundraising quarter of all the candidates, bringing in $134,041 during the three-month period. He is also the only candidate in the race who has not taken out any loans or made direct contributions to his own campaign. He ended the period with just under $121,000 in cash on hand.

Rep. Kevin Jones, of Wellsville, contributed $60,100 directly to his own campaign, which accounts for a little less than half of the total $126,337 that he has raised. But his campaign has not taken out any loans. He reported having $62,159 in cash going into the final stretch of the primary campaign.

Former Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays, of Topeka, raised only $7,204 since getting into the race May 11, but he has loaned his own campaign $101,000. His campaign ended the quarter with $22,316 in the bank.

Basehor City Councilman Vernon J. Fields, who has been less visible on the campaign trail than the other candidates, has raised only $3,535 from contributors, including $1,085 from himself, and has loaned his campaign an additional $16,962. He ended the period $3,211 in the hole.

As of Monday afternoon, Lawrence Democrat Paul Davis’ finance report had not yet been posted on the Federal Election Commission website. His campaign issued a statement on its website, however, saying he had raised $428,858 in the second quarter alone, more than the entire Republican field combined. That would bring his total contributions for the election cycle to just over $1.5 million.


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