Campaign Finance

The front runner for the Senate race in California, Kamala Harris, has a complex fundraising organization behind her. In addition to her campaign, which has raised over $12 million as of 9/30/2016, a committee named the “Kamala Harris Victory Fund” has raised over $1.5 million. As a testament to the Democratic party establishment’s commitment to getting Harris elected, this campaign is a joint fundraising operation between the “Kamala Harris for Senate” campaign and the California Democratic Party. Although the campaign itself has received nearly $600,000 in contributions from PACs, this represents a fairly small proportion of overall contributions. The vast majority of money raised has come from individual contributions. Of the individual contributions, $9.6 million, which makes up 79% of money raised, was raised through large contributions.

One prominent industry that is backing Harris is the TV/movie industry, which is her second largest support after lawyers. This support is especially significant in a California race, since there is a large amount of money flowing into political campaigns from the entertainment industry. In the case of Kamala Harris, her campaign has received nearly $1 million in contributions from TV industry professionals. This group is conspicuously missing from Loretta Sanchez’s list of top contributors.

The case of the TV/movie industry is just one example of how Sanchez has fallen behind on fundraising. Her campaign contrasts that of Harris’ in that she has loaned $200,000 to her campaign. As outlined by Herrnson (2016), self-financing is generally a strategy used by first time and/or less viable candidates, who might struggle in the fight for resources. She faces an uphill battle in two of the three categories of donors named by Francia et al. (2003)

  1. As she has never really threatened Harris’ lead in the polls, investors have little reason to donate to her campaign. Without a real shot at winning the election, this money would not be well spent for someone wanting access to the next California Senator.
  2. As the more moderate of two Democrats, she has few strong ideologues on her side. While she might get some support from Republicans on election day, these voters seem unlikely to take it a step further and donate money across party lines.

These issues clearly manifest themselves when looking at contributions for Sanchez’s campaign. Not only has she raised only 1/4 of what her opponent has managed, she is lagging behind in the percentage of individual contributions. Overall, only 1 percent of what her campaign has raised has been in small individual contributions (as opposed to Harris’ 13 percent)

Ultimately, these two campaigns are in no way evenly matched. Harris is raising more money in larger amounts from individuals and PACs alike. This is hardly surprising, considering Harris’ massive insider backing from the Democratic Party, and this campaign seems an excellent case study for just how powerful parties and prominent elected officials can be in what seems to be a de facto extension of a primary, with two members of the same party fighting it out in the general election.






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