Self-funded candidates can’t always buy success, research shows
While candidates with big war chests hold a significant advantage over their opponents, the advantage is diffused when most of the money comes from a candidate’s own pockets. The traditional advantages of being the top fundraiser in a race, or being an incumbent, don’t confer the same level of success to self-financiers.
That trend holds true for candidates from all parties. In fact, in the last nine years, only 11 percent of self-financed candidates won their races. Early primary results in 2010 show this trend may be continuing, according to a new report from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which found that self-funded candidates were elected at a much lower rate than candidates who raised money from other sources.
The Institute specifically examined the 6,171 candidates who provided most of their own campaign contributions during the years 2000 through 2009 (self-financiers comprise 8 percent of all candidates). These candidates contributed $700 million dollars to their own campaigns, a significant portion of the $849.4 million total they raised. Only 668 of these 6,171 candidates were successful.
Self-funded candidates who were among the top fundraisers overall also faced a tougher road to election. These candidates were elected 55 percent of the time–a significantly lower rate than the 87 percent success rate for the top-fundraising candidates who were not significantly self-financed.
Reach for the Top
Self-financed candidates tended to seek the top state offices more often. Overall, some 8 percent of candidates seeking a statewide or a legislative office funded themselves. However, the percentage of self-funded candidates seeking the state’s top posts—governor or lieutenant governor—jumps to almost twice that. Fully 15 percent of the gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial candidates are self-funded.
Eight of the top ten self-funded candidates ran for governor. The top two candidates, B. Thomas Galisano of New York and Tony Sanchez of Texas, were self-made millionaires who lost against incumbent Republican governors in the general election.
|Candidate||Race||Party||Outcome||Money from self or immediate family||Total|
|B. Thomas Galisano||New York Governor, 2002||Independence||Lost General||$74,130,000||$74,882,824|
|Tony Sanchez||Texas Governor, 2002||Democrat||Lost General||$60,618,882||$66,253,516|
|Steve Westly||California Governor, 2006||Democrat||Lost Primary||$35,150,000||$45,280,540|
|Jon S. Corzine||New Jersey Governor, 2005||Democrat||Won||$42,360,571||$44,339,373|
|Richard M. Devos, Jr.||Michigan Governor, 2006||Republican||Lost General||$35,449,629||$42,138,051|
|Doug Forrester||New Jersey Governor, 2005||Republican||Lost General||$31,709,115||$32,150,657|
|Jon Corzine & Loretta Weinberg||New Jersey Governor & Lt. Governor, 2009||Democrat||Lost General||$27,550,000||$30,583,879|
|David Dewhurst||Texas Lt. Governor, 2002||Republican||Won||$24,271,208||$29,335,793|
|Steve Poizner||California Insurance Commissioner, 2006||Republican||Won||$14,006,458||$16,059,469|
|Kerry Healey||Massachusetts Governor, 2006||Republican||Lost General||$10,330,500||$15,843,014|
B. Thomas Golisano, a member of the Independence Party, spent $74.1 million of his own money on an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in New York in 2002, or 99 percent of the total $74.9 million his campaign raised. Golisano, founder of Paychex, Inc., a payroll and benefits administrative services provider,2 lost to then-incumbent Republican Gov. George Pataki. Pataki’s campaign brought in $39.5 million, or 53 percent of the amount raised by Golisano.
Tony Sanchez, Jr., an oil tycoon and the first Hispanic to receive the gubernatorial nomination from either major party in Texas,3 raised $66.3 million total for his unsuccessful bid in 2002. Sanchez, a Democrat, contributed $60.6 million of his own money, or 91 percent of the total his campaign received. Incumbent Rick Perry won that race with $20.7 million in contributions.
Of the successful self-financing candidates, Democrat Jon Corzine of New Jersey spent the most money. Corzine raised $44.3 million (96 percent from his own pockets) in his winning bid for the New Jersey governor’s office in 2005. His Republican opponent in the open race, Douglas Forrester, raised $32.2 million. Forrester was also self-financed, giving 98 percent of his campaign’s total receipts. Both men come from a business background: Corzine is a former co-chair at the Wall Street firm, Goldman Sachs; Forrester founded a prescription drug benefits company.4
A Look Ahead
Because 2010 primary results are still coming in, it’s a bit early to identify trends. However, anecdotal evidence from the gubernatorial campaigns suggests that self-funded candidates continue to experience a lower rate of success. Notable examples include:
- Allen Weh, of New Mexico, who ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. He raised $1.3 million, over $750,000 of which came from his own wallet. Susana Martinez, who won that nomination, raised only $622,462.
- In Texas, Farouk Shami raised $9.7 million–$8.5 million of which he gave himself–and lost the Democratic nomination for governor to Bill White, who raised $9.2 million.
- Three self-funded candidates lost the Maine Republican gubernatorial nomination to Tea Party favorite Paul LePage. Les Otten raised $1.4 million, $1.3 million from himself. Bruce Poliquin raised $1.1 millon, $555,716 from himself. Bill Beardsley raised $309,091, and provided $258,217 himself. LePage, in contrast, raised $232,127. Interestingly, LePage contributed 48 percent of that amount himself.5
- Adam Andrzejewski contributed $941,340 of the total $1 million he raised in his failed bid for the Illinois Republican gubernatorial nod. Kirk Dillard and Andy McKenna raised more than he did, from multiple sources, but all still fell to Bill Brady, who raised a total of $428,526.
Meg Whitman provides a famous example to the contrary; she spent $71 million6 of her own money so far and handily won the Republican nomination for governor of California. Her closest competitor, Steve Poizner, was also significantly self-financed. Poizner spent “only” $25 million of his own money.7
- 2. “About Paychex – The Power of a Good Idea,” Paychex, Inc., available from http://www.paychex.com/company/aboutus.aspx, accessed April 27, 2010.
- 3. Peggy Fikac, “Governor; Rick Perry says he’s staying on the job; But Sanchez says he’ll wait until the votes are counted,” San Antonio Express-News, Nov. 6, 2002, page 1A.
- 4. David W. Chen, “Corzine Prevails in a Nasty Governor’s Campaign in New Jersey,” The New York Times, Nov. 9, 2005, available from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/09/nyregion/metrocampaigns/09jersey.html, accessed April 29, 2010.
- 5. The Institute’s data collection does not yet include the reports filed at the end of May, 2010. Therefore, these numbers may increase.
- 6. Juliet Williams, “Whitman rewrites campaign spending book,” Associated Press via Fox5 San Diego, June 4, 2010, available from http://www.fox5sandiego.com/news/kswb-whitman-campaign-spending,0,974135.story, accessed June 15, 2010.
- 7. The Institute’s data collection does not yet include the reports filed at the end of May, 2010, so the report cites media reports instead.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics collects and analyzes campaign contribution information on state-level candidates, political party committees, and ballot committees. Its free, searchable database of contributions, as well as the full text of the report is available online at FollowTheMoney.org. Click here and give us some feedback.