Incumbents far outspent congressional challengers

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – If you want to win a race for Congress, it helps to have money in the bank.
Mississippi’s current crop of U.S. House incumbents, all of whom won Tuesday’s primaries, raised an average of $670,000 apiece, based on campaign finance reports. And they’ll continue to collect more money in the months leading up to November’s general election.
It’s not unique to Mississippi. In fact, it’s probably a bargain compared to the costly campaigns waged elsewhere.
New York’s incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has taken in $10.2 million so far this campaign cycle. Mississippi’s U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, by contrast, has collected $2.1 million.
Nationwide, the average U.S. House candidate raises more than $1.4 million to win a race – that’s four times more than two decades ago, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. It’s even costlier for the U.S. Senate, whose typical winning candidate raises about $9 million today.
Friends, colleagues and businesses stuff the war chest with their individual contributions, but political action committees often tip the scales. Thirty-five percent of the $891,474 raised by incumbent 1st District U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., came from PACs representing a host of special interests, the Federal Election Commission shows.
But Nunnelee’s PAC portion pales in comparison to those of his colleagues: 42 percent for District 4 U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss.; 65 percent for District 3 U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss.; and 80 percent for District 2 U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
Wicker’s PAC contributions totaled 39 percent of his overall war chest.
Nunnelee, Thompson, Harper and Palazzo collectively raised $2.7 million so far for their re-election efforts this year. That’s an average of $670,000 apiece. They collectively spent nearly $2.3 million before this month’s primary – about $571,000 apiece.
The U.S. Senate incumbent, Roger Wicker, raised $2.1 million during the same 15-month period and spent nearly $445,000.
Their under-funded opponents, many of whom didn’t even bother filing FEC campaign contribution reports, could hardly compete. Of those who did file reports, District 2 Democratic candidate Heather McTeer raised the most with $333,442. But nearly all of it was self-financed; McTeer loaned herself money to run the campaign. A majority of the other losing candidates did the same thing, reports show.
The numbers so far for Nunnelee and Wicker still have a way to go to catch up with their last election cycle. Nunnelee spent $1.6 million through the primary and general election in winning the 1st District seat two years ago, while Wicker expended $6.4 million in his statewide race for the U.S. Senate against Ronnie Musgrove in 2008.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com

The Cost of Winning
MISSISSIPPI INCUMBENT CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES outraised and outspent their opponents in the March 13 primaries by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not surprisingly, incumbents won in each of those races.

Campaign Finance Figures
(January 2011-2012)

U.S. SENATE
ROGER WICKER (R)(I)
Raised $2,133,618
Spent $444,441
Funding Sources:
PAC 39%
Individual contributions 49%
Self financing 0%
Other 12%

E. ALLEN HATHCOCK
No information available

ROBERT MALONEY
No information available

U.S. HOUSE
DISTRICT 1
ALAN NUNNELEE (R)(I)
Raised $891,474
Spent $687,572
Funding Sources:
PAC 35%
Individual contributions 65%
Self financing 0%
Other 0%

HENRY ROSS (R)
Raised $89,825
Spent $40,393
Funding Sources:
PAC 0%
Individual contributions 33%
Self financing 67%
Other 0%

ROBERT ESTES (R)
No information available

DISTRICT 2
BENNIE THOMPSON (D)(I)
Raised $659,251
Spent $778,549
Funding Sources:
PAC 80%
Individual contributions 20%
Self financing 0%
Other 0%

HEATHER MCTEER (D)
Raised $333,442
Spent $139,635
Funding Sources:
PAC 1%
Individual contributions 13%
Self financing 86%
Other 0%

DISTRICT 3
GREGG HARPER (R)(I)
Raised $433,005
Spent $319,053
Funding Sources:
PAC 65%
Individual contributions 31%
Self financing 0%
Other 4%

DISTRICT 4
STEVEN PALAZZO (R)(I)
Raised $694,720
Spent $498,389
Funding Sources:
PAC 42%
Individual contributions 54%
Self financing 0%
Other 4%

RON VINCENT (R)
Raised $29,010
Spent $4,248
Funding Sources:
PAC 0%
Individual contributions 8%
Self financing 92%
Other 0%

CINDY BURLESON (R)
No information available
ROBERT J. ALLEN (R)
No information available

SOURCES: Federal Election Commission, Center for Responsive Politics