Campaign war chest has value beyond cash
Flash-the-Cash Week, as it should be called, arrived as it does every mid-July in New York, with candidates for state and local office revealing as required how much their campaigns raised, spent, borrowed and banked since mid-January.
Those who collected the big bucks suggest it indicates wider popular support, even before the biggest ad buys and polling begin.
Those who fared less well are left to argue that message beats money, that the other side represents special interests, or that the contest has just begun.
Sometimes the cash-flash sends the desired warning to party insiders, potential contributors, fellow politicians and would-be rivals. This message goes something like: "Oppose us, and you'll be wasting your time and resources, and alienate a winner."
In this vein, perhaps, Scott Reif, the Senate's GOP majority spokesman stated on Monday: "Republicans have $5.4 million on hand, even after making significant investments in districts we expect to be competitive this fall. This financial advantage, along with a record of accomplishment . . . show Republicans are poised to grow our majority."
Sometimes a funding edge confers possibility on an otherwise unlikely prospect. If, say, ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner hadn't just disclosed that his campaign still has $4.5 million on hand, his chance of election to citywide office would be taken even more lightly than it already is. Or, put another way, would anyone have even put "Donald Trump" and "presidential" in the same sentence if he couldn't spend massively?
Big war chests also feed buzz about races to be named later. Less than two years after an unsuccessful bid for state attorney general, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, a Democrat, displays continued aggressive fundraising. Just as an example, a piece emailed to those on her supporter list a few months ago highlighted a "60 Minutes" segment about her probe of the SAT cheating scandal.
Since January, Rice reported taking in a new $1,029,957 and spending $256,000. She reported just under $2 million on hand. Rice, whose post comes up for election next year, far out-raised other district attorneys in the region.
Rice's campaign aide Eric Phillips said: "Her unrivaled fundraising success as a DA is proof that people like her reformer style, and it means she'll be in a position to continue her public service, which is what's most important to her."
Westchester DA Janet DiFiore, who like Rice was first elected in 2005 and is expected to seek a third term in 2013, this week disclosed only $517,722 on hand after raising $270,884 and spending $17,279 during the latest reporting period. And Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, also facing re-election next year, raised $594,890 since January with expenses of $182,488, leaving a balance of just over $1.4 million.
"Let's face it," Zimmerman said. "Most of our elected officials, regardless of party, are not going to be re-elected solely on their charm or legislative gifts. So a large war chest helps the candidate build a strong infrastructure for a campaign, sends a message to the opposition, and shows that an incumbent is not taking anything for granted."