1st District Fundraising: Patel Leads, Vernon’s OK, Blum’s Lousy

The 1st quarter fundraising reports came out recently, and the race for Iowa’s 1st District continues to be one of the most interesting in the country. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Rod Blum

Raised – Individuals: $49,043
Raised – PACs: $70,499
Raised – Candidate Loans: $500,000
Total: $620,512
Spent: $20,697
Cash on Hand: $644, 373

Let’s start with the incumbent. Freshman Congressman Rod Blum did himself no favors in dismissing the idea that he’s the most vulnerable Republican in the country. He raised an anemic $49,043 from individual donors, and another $70,499 from PACs, which included the likes of Citizens United Political Victory Fund, Mediacom PAC, and KOCHPAC. Joni Ernst’s PAC pitched in $5,000 to help out her fellow Iowan. That takes him to just $119,543 raised for the quarter, before he loaned himself a half million dollars, bringing his total $620,512.

What’s particularly surprising about Blum’s lackluster haul is that he has nationally-known Republican presidential candidates coming to help him fund raise. He only got a measly 40 people to donate over $200 to this campaign, indicating he must not have spent much time on the phones the past few months. Blum’s fundraiser that featured Ted Cruz fell on April 1st, so that might have pushed those donations off until the 2nd Quarter report. Still, you’d think Blum would have cashed a few more of those checks prior to the end of the quarter.

The wealthy businessman must see self-financing as his path to victory once again. Remember, this is the guy who loaned a cool two million dollars to a hockey player he didn’t know, so it’s not like money is a big issue to him. Still, he needs to pick it up big time before national Republican organizations leave him for dead. He was already left off the NRCC’s Frontline program, a likely result from siding with Steve King’s choice for speaker over John Boehner. Larry Sabato singled out Blum in a story when he didn’t appear on the list, saying, “the national party could very well hang him out to dry given how hard it will be to hold his seat, not to mention the fact that he’s not playing ball with leadership.”

Ravi Patel

Raised – Individuals: $527,604
Raised – PACs: $5,000
Raised – Candidate Contributions: $7,054
Total: $539,658
Spent: $41,517
Cash on Hand: $498,140

Supporters said when Ravi Patel first announced that the young entrepreneur and hotel chain owner could raise serious money. Patel more than proved that correct with his incredible $539,658 haul, more than double what any candidate raised in any quarter in the 2014 Democratic primary. Most impressive is that nearly all of it came from individual donors. Actually, it’s hard to find barely any other Iowa campaigns that have pulled in over a half million in just a three month reporting period. What’s more notable is that Patel announced halfway through the 1st Quarter in February, so he did this in even less time. Patel must have worked the phones hard in those initial weeks.

Most of Patel’s money came from outside Iowa, with Texas, Georgia and Virginia all well-represented in his filing (all states with large Indian-American populations). Indian-American names made up the bulk of donors, most of which contributed the full $5,400 allowed. His one PAC contribution came from the Asian American Hotel Owners’ group.

Unlike Blum and Monica Vernon, Patel did not make any large loans to his campaign. He still could dip into his considerable personal wealth if he wanted. It’s been suggested that Patel has only tapped half of his network so far, so add that potential to his ability to self-finance, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Patel builds a war chest of two million dollars for the primary. That would be quite the feat, and could give the unlikely candidate a real shot of pulling off the upset. Some Democrats around the state worry that Patel’s profile doesn’t fit the district and that he has too many potential negatives from his entrepreneurial projects, but money like that can solve a lot of problems.

Monica Vernon

Raised – Individuals: $188,013
Raised – PACs: $2,500
Raised – Candidate Loans: $110,000
Total: $300,513
Spent: $10,536
Cash on Hand: $289,976

Monica Vernon, the 2nd-place finisher in the 2014 primary and Jack Hatch’s Lt. Governor running mate, posted a solid – if not spectacular – $300,513 overall number for the 1st quarter. Still, that leaves her in 3rd place in the money race among Blum and Patel. She did out-raise Blum significantly among individual donors, but Patel more than doubled her in individual contributions, and in half the time. Vernon raised almost $800,000 for her 2014 primary, but she’s going to need more than that to keep up this time.

Vernon is the presumed preferred candidate of many national Democrats, seeing her as the best-positioned to take on Blum in the general. The question is how much money they’ll want to commit to what’s shaping up to be a very expensive primary against Patel. EMILY’s List didn’t endorse Vernon until the very end of March, so their network of donors may not be activated until the next reporting period. Most of Vernon’s money came from Iowa, and she raised a lot online through ActBlue. She also received $2,500 from Martin O’Malley’s PAC.

One random thing I would suggest: Vernon’s maiden name is Wolf, and she sometimes lists her name as Monica Wolf Vernon. How about this for a donor group name: Monica’s Wolf Pack. That’s a committee name I’d donate to.

Waiting in the Wings

Gary Kroeger announced in April after the reporting deadline, so we’ll first see his fundraising totals in early July. Swati Dandekar is likely to announce sometime soon as well. She was a prolific fundraiser in the 2014 primary, so it will be interesting to see what she can pull in this time. Some wonder if having two Indian-American candidates in the race will eat into each other’s fundraising ability from that group. However, Patel and Dandekar’s families hail from different regions of India (and in a country of over a billion people, that’s a significant difference), and Patel’s networks run more in the hotelier industry.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 4/21/15


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