Massachusetts Congressional Candidates Are Struggling For Funds

The candidates have clearly found the fundraising tougher than expected.

Back in February, I wrote that “those assessing the [potential 5th District congressional] race expect candidates to need between $1 million and $2 million for the primary” in a now-defunct publication known as the Boston Phoenix. With that primary fast approaching on October 15, we can see how short of that measure the actual candidates are.

Calculating from campaign-finance reports filed Thursday, it appears that Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian has raised close to $800,000 for the primary, followed by State Senator Katherine Clark at just over $750,000, State Representative Carl Sciortino around $615,000, State Senator Will Brownsberger roughly $535,000, and State Senator Karen Spilka just under $400,000.

Clark, who has already burned through almost all of what she’s raised, has loaned her campaign an additional $250,000.

The figures aren’t exactly comparable, due to some filing confusion. Brownsberger, Koutoujian, and Sciortino correctly filed pre-primary reports, which go up to September 25; Clark and Spilka filed end-of-quarter reports, which go to September 30. The difference is only about a week, but could be fairly significant, since that happened to be the week the campaigns briefly emerged from the shadow of the Boston mayoral campaign, which had its preliminary election on September 24. And Sciortino was getting a national boost at the time from his “Tea Party Dad” video.

Further confusing things is the need to separate out the funds that exceed the primary-cycle limits, and must be set aside for the general election (if the candidate makes it that far).

But hey, I was sure the FEC was going to be closed because of the government shutdown, denying us any look at the data. Turns out the reporting system is up and running. So there’s that.

That also means that we can see independent expenditure reports. So far, Women Vote!—the independent expenditure fund of EMILY’s List—has spent close to $60,000 in support of Clark, mostly on mailings. The Committee to Elect a Progressive Congress has spent about $28,000 on mailings for Sciortino.

Fun little side story in those independent expenditure reports: Women Vote! had just $31,000 in its account at the end of August. It received $36,400 in September—$25,000 of which came from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. As I just noted, just about all of that money was then used to do pro-Clark mailings in this special election. Which is kind of amusing, since the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund has endorsed Sciortino.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the candidates have found the fundraising tougher than expected—perhaps not surprising for a race that’s been so far below the popular radar, in a state that’s been bled dry by Democratic campaign fundraisers of late. The PACs have mostly stayed out as well; the candidates have received roughly $135,000 combined from political action committees. (Brownsberger doesn’t take PAC money; Koutoujian has received the most at close to $46,000.)

If you’re the kind of voter who doesn’t like to be bombarded by a lot of campaign commercials and mailings in the final 10 days before an election, this is all good news for you. Indeed, it should be fairly easy for most of the district to go about their lives barely even noticing there’s an election at all.