By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Tea Party-backed candidate Chris McDaniel, challenging Mississippi’s senior incumbent U.S. senator for the Republican nomination in the June 3 primary, welcomes earmarks more than his rhetoric suggests, just a different kind of earmark than those Thad Cochran has brought to the state.
McDaniel’s fundraising efforts during the three-month period ending Dec. 31 outpaced the six-term Cochran by $227,414, according to the first campaign finance reports from both candidates since the challenger entered the race in October.
Both candidates have been busy raising campaign cash since the beginning of 2014, but those funds won’t show up until later in Federal Election Commission financial reports.
This GOP primary election continues to draw national attention as Cochran, 76, the nation’s third-most senior senator, faces McDaniel, 41, a state senator from Ellisville backed by national Tea Party-aligned political action committees. McDaniel has said the nation can no longer afford the steady flow of federal funds to Mississippi and other states from Washington, formerly called “earmarks,” which Cochran has mastered.
Campaign finance reports show McDaniel’s campaign benefited from a form of fundraising called “earmarking” to collect political contributions. His campaign reported raising a total of $561,279 in the last quarter of 2013.
Cochran’s campaign showed contributions of $333,866 during the same period.
Earmarking with campaign contributions occurs when a third-party, such as a political action committee, receives contributions from individuals specifically intended for a particular candidate.
This method of campaign contributions isn’t new but has gained popularity in presidential campaigns, when PACs and individual campaign fundraisers called “bundlers” collect money from individuals to give to a candidate’s campaign.
Earmarking campaign contributions from individuals isn’t required by federal law to be counted as PAC contributions.
Bundling by the Club for Growth PAC and others led McDaniel’s campaign report to keep PAC contributions to $15,000 and report more than 4,400 contributors.
In contrast, Cochran’s campaign reported receiving $275,488 from PACs.
While McDaniel reported raising more campaign cash than Cochran during this three-month period, he still had significantly less funding than the incumbent. At the end of the reporting period, Cochran had $1.1 million compared to McDaniel’s $390,794.
McDaniel’s campaign spent $170,585 during the reporting period, much less than $43,327 spend by Cochran’s campaign. Cochran did not announce his decision to run for re-election until early December.
Cochran, ranking GOP member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, reported individual contributions from former Gov. Haley Barbour, along with other individuals inside the state and other parts of the country. Cochran, one of the architects of the recently passed farm bill, also received significant financial support from agricultural PACs and funding from corporate PACs based in the state.
McDaniel reported support from Tea Party-associated PACs – the Senate Conservative Fund and the Madison Majority Project.
No other Republicans are expected to enter the race by the March 1 qualifying deadline. So far, only former Republican congressional candidate turned Bill Marcy has filed qualifying papers as a Democrat, but state Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole said he expects at least one other to qualify.
The general election is Nov. 4.
Thad Cochran’s FEC Report
Chris McDaniel’s FEC Report