Chart of the Week: The State Party Coffers

Massachusetts Republicans are outraising and outspending Democrats, but neither party is stockpiling significant cash.

The Massachusetts Republican Party has been dramatically outraising and outspending its Democratic counterpart in 2014, giving it a head start on the state election campaigns—but neither is stocking up any significant war chest.

Each party raises and spends money through two separate committee accounts: one state account, regulated by the Massachusetts Office of Political and Campaign Finance (OCPF), and a federal account regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). There are confusing and complicated rules governing both the money coming in (for instance, whether federal PACs can contribute to the state committee, or state PACs to the federal committee), and the money going out (certain joint allocations must be divvied between the committees according to a formula that changes depending on what types of elections are going on).

The bottom line, however, is that wealthy individuals can give a maximum of $5,000 to the party’s state committee, and another $10,000 to the party’s federal committee. That’s a lot more than the $500 that individuals can give to each candidate running for state office.

So, wealthy Massachusetts Republicans eager to help their party’s presumptive gubernatorial candidate, Charlie Baker, write their big check to the state party—knowing that it will go primarily toward helping elect Baker. By my count, roughly $500,000 of the $839,180 raised by the MassGOP’s federal account during the first four months of this year came from individual donors giving $1,000 or more. That includes quite a few $10,000 checks.

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Massachusetts Democrats have, so far, received very little of that kind of dough. That should start to change soon, beginning with the party’s big Roosevelt Dinner next week. But the deficit is also in large part because of the ongoing gubernatorial primary battle, according to some people I talk to. Enthusiasts of individual candidates aren’t interested at this point in writing big checks to the party, which can’t use it to help their favorite win the nomination.

They might just be waiting. Or, they might be planning to write those big checks to outside groups who will spend it in the primary: to EMILY’s List for Martha Coakley, for instance; or to the new pro-Grossman independent expenditure PAC.

The party’s federal account has also received less than $50,000 from the Democratic National Committee so far; the MassGOP has received roughly $125,000 from the Republican National Committee. The Democratic party has received more than the Republicans from PACs and from the committees of elected officials—not surprising, since there are so many more elected Democrats in the state.

The Republicans have also had more expenses, including at least $200,000 directly related to its state convention in March; Democrats hold theirs in June.

But the extra money has allowed the Republicans to beef up their operations, growing from 14 to 23 people on the payroll since the start of the year and opening its first “Joint Victory” offices. The party has also paid $175,000 this year to consulting firm Digital Solutions, and spent $45,000 on polling, among other expenses.

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Democrats are operating on a much leaner staff, and few major costs aside from a few mailings. It will be interesting to see whether that leaves the party behind when things really start ramping up.

The party does have a little bit more currently on hand than the free-spending Republicans—but neither is at all flush. And, as mentioned, the Democrats still have their big convention coming up. If you have money and political interest, you should be expecting some phone calls from your state party.

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