Tag Archives: campaign finance

A Request for the State Board of Elections and the General Assembly

By Adam Pagnucco.

One of the purposes for the disclosure of political contributions is to help voters decide whom to support in elections.  In order to serve that role, contributions should be disclosed with enough time remaining before the election so that voters can review them before proceeding to the voting booth.  But that’s not quite the case in Maryland.

Recently, we wrote that the percentage of voters who vote early has been rising for years.  That percentage hit a high of 31% in the 2016 general election and could be between 20% and 25% in the upcoming primary.  Unfortunately for some of those voters, they will not have access to the latest campaign finance reports when they vote.  Consider the following entries on the state’s election calendar.

Primary Election

Annual 2017 campaign finance report due: 1/17/18 (11:59 PM)

Pre-primary 1 campaign finance report due: 5/22/18 (11:59 PM)

Early voting begins: 6/14/18

Pre-primary 2 campaign finance report due: 6/15/18 (11:59 PM)

General Election

Pre-general 1 campaign finance report due: 8/28/18 (11:59 PM)

Early voting begins: 10/25/18

Pre-general 2 campaign finance report due: 10/26/18 (11:59 PM)

The above calendar shows that people voting during the first two days of the early voting period will have no way to know about the contents of the last pre-election campaign finance reports when they vote.  This is potentially important because there are sometimes surprises in those last reports.  In 2014, the Baltimore Sun reported on October 26 that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown received a $500,000 loan from the Laborers Union in his final pre-general report, an unusual event that far exceeded the $6,000 limit on PAC contributions.  However, early voting started on October 23.  According to the State Board of Elections, 101,537 people voted during the first three days of early vote in the 2014 general election and would have not seen that report in the Sun.  One can easily imagine similar surprises occurring with regards to big self-funding checks, bundled corporate contributions, out-of-state PAC checks or the like.

To remedy this problem, we request that the State Board of Elections and/or the General Assembly change the due date of the final pre-election campaign finance report to 72 hours before early voting begins.  This will give the media time enough to report on anything interesting in those last reports and for voters to consider it before they head to the booth.

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Campaign Finance Reports: Council Districts, May 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Today we look at fundraising by the Council District candidates.  As with our prior posts on the County Executive and Council At-Large races, we start with a note on methodology.  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Third, for publicly financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in the column entitled “Cash Balance With Requested Public Contributions.”  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

Let’s start with the Council District 1 candidates.

Former Comptroller staffer Andrew Friedson is easily the fundraising leader.  His total raised for the cycle ($333,081) exceeds any of the Council At-Large candidates and his cash on hand ($245,290) almost equals the cash on hand of the next three candidates combined ($251,205).  Friedson has raised $159,257 from individuals in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Glen Echo, Cabin John, Kensington, Potomac and Poolesville, which represents 48% of his take.  That amount is not very different from the TOTAL fundraising from others reported by former Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman ($174,996) and former Planning Board Member Meredith Wellington ($138,820).  Of Friedson’s 1,074 contributions, 702 were for $150 or less.

The endorsement leader in District 1 is Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, who has the support of MCEA, Casa in Action, SEIU Locals 500 and 32BJ, Progressive Maryland and MCGEO.  But Gutierrez’s main base of voters is Wheaton, which is not in the district, and she does not have a lot of money for mail.  Friedson got a big boost when the Post endorsed him.

Reggie Oldak faces a cash crunch at the end because of her decision to participate in public financing.  Unlike Friedson, Fosselman or Wellington, she can’t get big corporate or self-financed checks to catch up late and she has already received the maximum public matching funds available ($125,000).  District 1 has by far more Democratic voters than any other district and past candidates, like incumbent Roger Berliner and former incumbent Howie Denis, raised comparable amounts to the at-large candidates.  The next County Council should consider whether to adjust the matching funds cap to avoid handicapping future District 1 candidates who enroll in public financing.

Now let’s look at the Council District 3 candidates.

Incumbent Sidney Katz and challenger Ben Shnider have raised comparable amounts for the cycle.  But Shnider’s burn rate has been much higher (partly driven by early mail) and Katz has more than twice his cash on hand.

Katz’s strength is not simply his incumbency but the fact that he has been a county or municipal elected official in the district longer than Shnider has been alive.  That shows up in their fundraising.  Katz is in public financing and recently announced that he will receive the maximum public matching funds contribution of $125,000.  Of Shnider’s $199,454 total raised, just $14,639 (7%) came from individuals in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Washington Grove, Derwood and zip codes 20878 and 20906.  That is a huge gap in starting indigenous support that Shnider has to close.

Here are the summaries for Council Districts 2, 4 and 5.

Council District 5 challenger Kevin Harris qualified for public matching funds so he can send mail against incumbent Tom Hucker.  But we expect Hucker and his fellow council incumbents, Craig Rice and Nancy Navarro, to be reelected.

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Self-Financing by MoCo Candidates

By Adam Pagnucco.

Businessman David Blair is being criticized for contributing $1.9 million to his campaign for County Executive.  Council Member Marc Elrich, who is also running for Executive, told the Post, “David Blair can use money to commission polls and then create an image of himself based on poll results… We’ve had enough of buying images and elections.”  That leads us to a question.

How have other big self-funders done in MoCo?

The chart below shows all MoCo-based candidates since the 2006 cycle who have self-financed at least $200,000 in an election.

Notice something?  Only one of these folks won the election in which they self-financed at least $200,000: Congressman John Delaney.

Why did so many of these self-funders lose?  Here are a few reasons applying to various races.

They ran in the wrong district.

This might be the biggest reason Total Wine co-owner David Trone lost the Congressional District 8 race despite massively outspending the winner, Jamie Raskin.  The odds were long that CD8, with its dark blue enclaves of Takoma Park, Downtown Silver Spring, Kensington and Chevy Chase, would elect an alcohol salesman over a progressive, brainy and likeable college professor.  Trone is much better off in CD6 with its more moderate voters.  Similarly, real estate developer Josh Rales was no match for long-time Congressman Ben Cardin and former Congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume in a statewide U.S. Senate primary.

They challenged an incumbent.

Dana Beyer and Amie Hoeber had uphill battles running against incumbents.  Hoeber’s entry on this list deserves an asterisk because her committee funding did not include $3.8 million in outside spending by her husband.

Their message wasn’t great.

CD8 candidate Kathleen Matthews had a very generic message primarily targeted at women.  District 20 House candidate Jonathan Shurberg’s message was indistinguishable from the other candidates in his race, some of whom were endorsed by Raskin and had the Apple Ballot.  District 19 Senator Mike Lenett ran one of the most negative campaigns in MoCo history against the man who went on to defeat him, Delegate Roger Manno.  Lenett’s Holocaust mailer was a killer mistake in the last days of the race.

They motivated the other side.

One veteran of Raskin’s congressional campaign told us, “We had a motto.  You can outspend us but you will not outwork us!”  Raskin’s door-knockers were dwarfed by Trone’s army but they were well-trained and highly motivated on his behalf.  (This was evident by their comparative performances at your author’s door!)  In the end, true-believer volunteers proved more effective than more numerous hirelings.

Delaney was the exception because he ran in a district that fit a center-left businessman, his main Democratic opponent took the election for granted, Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett was on his last legs and the district was gerrymandered to elect a Democrat.  But there was more: in addition to his self-funding, Delaney raised $2 million in outside money during his first win in 2012.  Most of his fundraising in his next two wins came from others and not himself.

There is no question that self-financing capacity is an advantage.  But little in MoCo’s recent political history supports the notion that elections here can be outright bought.  If Blair wins, it won’t just be because of money.  As one of the wisest MoCo election observers we know told us recently, “You know, the reason self-funders usually lose is because they have a crappy (or no) message.  But when they have a concise message… look out!”

Disclosure: The Executive candidate we are supporting, Roger Berliner, is not self-funding his race.  If he did that, his wife would kill him!

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Council At-Large Fundraising History

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last week, we wrote about fundraising in the Council At-Large race.  Today we put that in perspective.  How do today’s campaigns compare to the campaigns of the past?

There are two big differences between this year’s Council At-Large race and its three predecessors: 2006, 2010 and 2014.  The first is the presence of public financing.  The second is the number of open seats.  In 2006, there was one open seat vacated by Steve Silverman, who ran for County Executive.  In 2010 and 2014, all four incumbents ran again.  This year, there are three at-large vacancies – something that has never happened before.

One thing that all four cycles have in common is the importance of fundraising.  Public financing may have changed the mode by which fundraising occurs, but it did not reduce the centrality of fundraising to the prospect of winning.  Raising a lot of money doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s hard to win without it!

Below is a chart showing fundraising for Council At-Large candidates over the last four cycles.  Candidates shown include incumbents, winners and all others raising at least $150,000.  Contributions to 2018 candidates go through the Pre-Primary 1 report, which was due on May 22.  Incumbency, endorsements by the Washington Post and MCEA and place of finish are also shown.

Since 2006, all candidates who raised at least $240,000 won with one exception: Duchy Trachtenberg.  In 2010, Trachtenberg – then a first-term incumbent – committed one of the craziest decisions of all time by sitting on $146,000.  Rumor had it that she had polls showing her winning and had decided to save her money for a future race, perhaps for Executive.  Her fellow incumbent, George Leventhal, edged her out for the fourth spot by 3,981 votes.  If Trachtenberg had spent her full sum, she might have been able to send out at least another three mailers and history could have changed.

On the other side, no one raising less than $230,000 has won since 2006 with one exception: Marc Elrich.  Love him or hate him, Elrich is the exception to a lot of rules in MoCo politics and he has always vastly outperformed his fundraising.  Becky Wagner (2010) and Beth Daly (2014) were good candidates but they couldn’t quite raise enough money to break through, even with substantial self-financing.

This year, the folks whose fundraising is in the same ballpark as prior winners are Hans Riemer (the race’s sole incumbent), Evan Glass, Bill Conway and Will Jawando.  Gabe Albornoz and Hoan Dang are close.  The others on this chart are below Daly and Wagner.  All of this year’s candidates will raise a bit more money because these figures only go through a month before the primary.  But those in public financing – everyone except Delegate Charles Barkley and Ashwani Jain – have already raised most of their funds for this cycle.  Public financing does not allow for last-second $50,000 loans or bundled corporate checks to pay for a final mailer or two.

Money isn’t everything – just ask David Trone.  But it has a role and public financing has not changed that.  As we go down to the wire in the at-large race, money matters as much as ever.

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Campaign Finance Reports: County Executive, May 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

The May campaign finance reports are in and we will start breaking them down with the County Executive race.  A note on methodology.  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Third, for publicly financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in the column entitled “Cash Balance With Requested Public Contributions.”  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

Below is our fundraising summary for the County Executive candidates.

Council Member Roger Berliner (whom your author supports) is the leader in money raised other than self-funding and also in cash on hand.  He is closing in on a million dollars raised for the race, which was roughly Ike Leggett’s total in 2006.  He has enough money to be heard in the final month.

Council Member Marc Elrich is the leader among the publicly financed candidates.  His total raised of $745,352 is almost five times what he raised in his 2014 council race when public financing was not yet available.  Elrich has a long history of vastly outperforming his fundraising because of his large and loyal base of supporters, some of whom have been with him for decades.  With more than $400,000 to spend in the final month, he won’t blow anyone out, but he can combine that with a grass-roots field program to finish strong.

Businessman David Blair is going to break Steve Silverman’s fundraising record in 2006 with more than $2 million.  The difference is that Silverman raised his money from the business community while Blair is mostly a self-funder.  Blair’s self-financing of $1.9 million sends a message that he is deadly serious about winning.  He is the strongest of the outsider candidates.

Council Member George Leventhal will get votes because of his longevity, name recognition and sheer hard work in the campaign cycle.  (His brilliant Avengers-themed video could get some votes too!)  But he doesn’t have enough resources to make a big push at the end.

Former Mayor of Rockville Rose Krasnow is a substantive and knowledgeable candidate who impresses those she meets.  But she made two big mistakes in this campaign: getting in late and using public financing.  Those mistakes reinforce each other.  If she had gotten in early, she might have been able to raise enough in public financing to compete with the totals accumulated by Elrich and Leventhal.  Since she did get in late, traditional financing offered a better option to raise money in a hurry.  Now she is in the same situation as Leventhal and Bill Frick: struggling to make a final push.

Your author likes Delegate Bill Frick (D-16) a lot personally but he doesn’t have the resources to make his case.  We wish Frick had stayed in the House of Delegates and plotted a course to succeed his former district mate, Brian Frosh, as Attorney General.  The path not taken will be harder now.

Republican Robin Ficker has applied for public financing, but as of this writing, we don’t know whether he will receive it.

Overall, there are two competing narratives among those who are really focused on this race – admittedly, a minority of the voters.  First, there is the view that the county should be more progressive.  It should be bolder about closing the achievement gap, do more to help vulnerable residents (including renters), institute tougher environmental protections and push back against the influence of developers and big businesses.  People with that perspective are mostly rallying behind Elrich, who is the overwhelming choice of progressive endorsing organizations.

Then there is the narrative advanced by your author’s writings on the county budget and the economy, the Washington Post’s endorsement editorials and the now-famous report by Sage Policy Group: to pay for progressive priorities, the county needs a stronger tax base.  That message plays more to the outsider candidates, especially Blair, who put it in a recent mailer.  But there’s no reason why Berliner and Leventhal shouldn’t embrace that perspective too.

It’s important to recognize that these views are not mutually exclusive.  Not all progressives are skeptical of economic growth.  And not all people who would like to see a stronger economy oppose spending the resulting revenue on progressive priorities.  But the two messages contain differences in emphasis and differences in potential for attracting blocs of voters.  Both of them represent change in some form, implying that running on resume and experience won’t be enough in this cycle – at least not in the Executive contest.  Everyone needs to pick a path forward to win.

Next: the Council At-Large race.

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Public Financing Geography, Part Five

By Adam Pagnucco.

We conclude with the remaining five Council At-Large candidates who have qualified for matching funds in public financing.

Chris Wilhelm

Wilhelm, an MCPS teacher, is becoming a progressive darling of the Council At-Large race with endorsements from MCEA, the Laborers, Progressive Maryland and the Democratic Socialists.  His contributions are heavily tilted towards the very liberal areas of Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park.  The question for Wilhelm is whether he can hang with the other strong competitors going for those same votes, especially Hans Riemer, Evan Glass, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv and Seth Grimes and find a way to break into the top four.  Wilhelm is a smart and passionate campaigner so don’t count him out.

Will Jawando

Jawando is the leading fundraiser in Silver Spring East County, which we define as zip codes 20903, 20904 and 20905.  This area overlaps with the section of District 20 in which he performed best in his 2014 race for Delegate.  Jawando has put together a long list of institutional endorsements that exceeds even the race’s sole incumbent, Hans Riemer, and includes the Apple Ballot.  (He was also endorsed by the Laborers Union shortly after we published the latest list.)  Now Jawando has to raise enough money to get the word out and finish the job.  If he does, he will become just the second Council Member of color to win an At-Large seat after Ike Leggett left in 2002.

Danielle Meitiv

Meitiv, the famous Free Range Mom, is so far the only female at-large candidate who has qualified for public matching funds.  (Shruti Bhatnagar came close but has been ruled ineligible by the State Board of Elections.  Brandy Brooks says she has enough contributions to qualify but has not yet filed with the state.)  Meitiv’s contribution geography resembles the all-candidate average and is largely based in the Democratic Crescent that is so critical to winning countywide elections.  If she continues to raise money, her status as one of the few competitive at-large women will help her in a primary electorate that is nearly 60% female.

Mohammad Siddique

The good news is that Siddique is the second-leading fundraiser in Gaithersburg ($5,515) after George Leventhal ($6,808).  The bad news is that he has a minimal presence in Democratic Crescent areas like Chevy Chase, Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park that are critical to countywide performance.

Seth Grimes

Grimes, a former Takoma Park City Council Member, has collected a majority of his contributions from the city with relatively little money coming from elsewhere in the county.  Takoma Park is not a big enough base from which to win a countywide election by itself.  Grimes needs to pick it up elsewhere to have a chance for victory.

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Public Financing Geography, Part Four

By Adam Pagnucco.

Let’s start looking at the Council At-Large candidates who have qualified for public matching funds.

Hans Riemer

Riemer, who is finishing his second term, is the only incumbent in the at-large race.  His contributions are heavily based in Downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda, the twin poles of Democratic Downcounty politics.  He is weaker in places like Rockville and Upcounty.  Riemer’s fundraising reflects his smart growth, urban-focused brand and fits the Democratic Crescent nicely.  Our hunch is that he will finish first in both Bethesda and Silver Spring en route to his third term in office.  (Disclosure: the author was once employed by Riemer.)

Bill Conway

Here is an amazing fact: in a public financing system that includes multi-term incumbents like Riemer, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, first-time candidate Bill Conway is the number one fundraiser in both Potomac and Chevy Chase.  He has also done well in Bethesda.  Conway could use more exposure in Silver Spring.  If he gets that, he could combine a top two or three performance in Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac with a smattering of votes in other areas and get a ticket to the County Council.

Evan Glass

Second-time candidate Evan Glass, who almost won the District 5 seat four years ago, has a decade-long history of civic leadership in Downtown Silver Spring which is reflected in his fundraising.  Glass has raised almost as much money there ($18,573) as has Marc Elrich ($20,763).  Glass needs to grow his base, with the logical targets being other areas in District 5 like East County Silver Spring, Burtonsville, Takoma Park and Forest Glen as well as western parts of the Crescent.  As it is, he has a good shot to win.

Hoan Dang

Dang is also a second-time candidate, having finished fifth of six candidates in the 2010 District 19 Delegate race despite doing a good job in fundraising.  Dang has done pretty well in public financing but he is not dominating anywhere and has not shown a lot of strength in the Crescent.  He could use some institutional backing and more support in places like Bethesda and Downtown Silver Spring to increase his chances of victory.

Gabe Albornoz

County Recreation Department Director Gabe Albornoz is by far the leading fundraiser in Kensington, where he has a large base of family and friends.  Other than that, he is not among the fundraising leaders in any of the county’s Democratic strongholds.  Albornoz has three useful networks: his professional network from his day job, the contacts he has accumulated during his service on the county’s Democratic Central Committee and the supporters of County Executive Ike Leggett, who has endorsed him.  Albornoz needs to continue to monetize those networks and get a couple key endorsements, like the Washington Post.  If he can do that, he has a path to victory.

We will finish looking at the Council At-Large qualifiers tomorrow.

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Public Financing Geography, Part Three

By Adam Pagnucco.

It’s time to start looking at the geography of in-county contributions for the thirteen candidates who have so far qualified for public matching funds: County Executive candidates Marc Elrich, Rose Krasnow and George Leventhal and Council At-Large candidates Gabe Albornoz, Bill Conway, Hoan Dang, Evan Glass, Seth Grimes, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv, Hans Riemer, Mohammad Siddique and Chris Wilhelm.  While all participate in the same system, there are immense differences between them in where they are raising money.

First, an overview.

Long-time Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal lead in public financing fundraising.  But former Rockville Mayor and Planning Department staffer Rose Krasnow is closing on them.  Krasnow qualified for matching funds in 109 days, far faster than Elrich (209 days) and Leventhal (278 days).  All three lead the Council At-Large candidates in total raised primarily because of the higher public matching rate for Executive candidates.  Riemer, Conway and Glass lead the council candidates while Meitiv, Siddique and Grimes trail.  The fact that some candidates last reported two months ago while others reported within the last few weeks will affect this data somewhat.  Including the traditionally funded candidates, Roger Berliner so far leads the Executive candidates while Delegate Charles Barkley is one of the Council At-Large leaders and Ashwani Jain is competitive.

Here’s an important thing to note about public financing: it’s not just about money.  It’s also a cornerstone for a field program.  The same folks who show up at campaign events and bring small checks are the people who can be tapped for neighbor-to-neighbor letters, canvassing, phone banking, lit drops and poll coverage.  The total amount raised is a useful proxy for the number of ardent supporters, so money raised in a local area may be a possible, partial precursor to actual electoral performance.

Now to the three Executive candidates.

Marc Elrich

Elrich is the number one fundraiser in Downtown Silver Spring, Olney and Takoma Park, the latter by a mile.  His contributions have been heavily concentrated in the Democratic Crescent, which accounts for 53% of all in-county contributions and 68% of in-county contributions to Elrich.  This resembles the Downcounty support for Jamie Raskin in his 2016 race for Congress.  That distribution along with Elrich’s number one finish in the last two at-large elections and his many progressive endorsements makes him the front runner in the eyes of most observers.

George Leventhal

Leventhal, a former Chair of the county Democratic Party, has leveraged his more than twenty years in county politics to assemble the most geographically diverse contribution distribution of the Executive candidates.  He is the number one fundraiser in Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Montgomery Village.  Leventhal leads Elrich in Upcounty but trails him by a lot in the Democratic Crescent.  Can Leventhal pull enough votes from Midcounty and Upcounty to overwhelm Elrich’s strength in Silver Spring and Takoma Park and break through?

Rose Krasnow

Krasnow was an elected official in Rockville between 1991 and 2001 and she is crushing both Elrich and Leventhal in money raised from the city.  On the other hand, she trails them badly in the Democratic Crescent.  Krasnow is off to a fast start in public financing but she needs more exposure in Downcounty areas like Downtown Silver Spring, Bethesda and Chevy Chase.  Elrich and Leventhal have been working those places for years and time is getting short.

Next, we will start looking at the Council At-Large candidates.

Disclosure: the author is a publicly-listed supporter of Berliner for Executive.

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Public Financing Geography, Part Two

By Adam Pagnucco.

As we stated in Part One, we have examined nearly 9,000 records of contributions to thirteen countywide candidates in the public financing system who have qualified for matching funds: County Executive candidates Marc Elrich, Rose Krasnow and George Leventhal and Council At-Large candidates Gabe Albornoz, Bill Conway, Hoan Dang, Evan Glass, Seth Grimes, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv, Hans Riemer, Mohammad Siddique and Chris Wilhelm.  Today we begin to answer the question of where individual contributions in the public financing system are coming from.

First, let’s tally the aggregate sums collected by all thirteen candidates.

The largest source of money in the public system is public matching funds, which outnumbers private contributions by more than two to one.  But that understates the magnitude of matching funds because the contribution records do not include public funds requested but not yet disbursed.  We will examine that issue when we begin discussing individual candidates in Part Three.  One note: while candidates may not take corporate contributions, their accounts may accept vendor refunds, deposit returns and bank interest.  That accounts for the tiny amount in the “other” category.

Now let’s look at in-county contributions by local area.

Urban centers that are also Democratic strongholds tend to dominate here, especially Downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda.  We have previously identified an area we call “the Democratic Crescent” including Takoma Park, Downtown Silver Spring, Kensington, Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Cabin John that accounts for 23% of the county’s population, 29% of its registered Democrats and 37% of its Super Democrats (those who voted in each of the last three mid-term primaries).  That area accounts for 53% of in-county contributions in the public financing system.

Below we compare in-county contributions to population by local area.

Relative to their population, Downtown Silver Spring, Bethesda, Takoma Park, Potomac and Chevy Chase are over-represented in terms of in-county contributions.  Gaithersburg, Germantown, Glenmont-Norbeck (zip code 20906) and Silver Spring East County (zip codes 20903, 20904 and 20905) are under-represented.  The Democratic Crescent accounts for 23% of the county’s population but 53% of in-county contributions.  Upcounty, an area we define as including Ashton, Boyds, Brookeville, Clarksburg, Damascus, Dickerson, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Montgomery Village, Olney, Poolesville and Sandy Spring, accounts for 34% of the county’s population but just 13% of in-county contributions.

Here’s another way to look at the same data: in-county contribution dollars per resident.

Seven communities contributed one dollar or more per resident to publicly financed candidates: Takoma Park, Chevy Chase, Dickerson, Downtown Silver Spring, Kensington, Potomac and Bethesda.  Except for Dickerson and Potomac, all of these areas are in the Democratic Crescent.  Seven communities contributed less than 25 cents per resident: Burtonsville, Gaithersburg, Glenmont-Norbeck, Clarksburg, Montgomery Village, Germantown and Damascus.  The average contribution per resident in the Democratic Crescent was $1.26.  In Upcounty, it was 21 cents.

Finally, we compare in-county contributions to the distribution of Super Democrats.

The distribution of in-county contributions is a much closer match for Super Democrats than for the broader population.  But Super Dem-intensive areas are even more influential among contributors.  The Democratic Crescent accounts for 37% of Super Dems and 53% of in-county contributions.  Upcounty accounts for 20% of Super Dems and 13% of in-county contributions.  Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park are over-represented here even when factoring in how many Super Dems they have, while Glenmont-Norbeck, Silver Spring East County and Rockville are under-represented.

The bottom line is that public financing is amplifying the influence of heavily Democratic Downcounty areas above and beyond patterns of residency and voting.  That influence comes at the expense of Upcounty areas like Gaithersburg, Germantown, Clarksburg, Damascus and the smaller communities close to the Frederick and Howard County borders.  If corporate money and PAC money are thought to have outsize impacts on the actions of county government in the traditional system, then one wonders if the Downcounty dominance that some Upcounty residents complain about will be even more pronounced due to public financing.

In Part Three, we will begin examining specific candidates.

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Public Financing Geography, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

This year’s election cycle is the first one in which public financing is being used in MoCo’s county-level races.  That is one of many reasons why this election is historic in nature.  So far, we know the following things about public financing: it is heavily used (especially in the Council At-Large race), it is administratively challenging, it requires a long time to raise money, it is less costly than first thought and while it creates opportunities for new candidates, it confers huge benefits on incumbents.  Also, as predicted, the system reduces the influence of corporate interests and PACs.  But who is stepping into that vacuum?

This week, we will explore where contributions to publicly financed candidates come from.  Participation in the system is optional; candidates can stay in the traditional system and many of them have done so.  Candidates in the public system may only accept contributions from individuals up to $150.  They cannot take money from corporate entities or PACs and must limit self-financing to $12,000.  Contributions from in-county residents are matched by the county on a sliding scale.  For Executive candidates, a $150 in-county contribution gets a county match of $600.  For council candidates, a $150 in-county contribution gets a county match of $450.  Candidates must meet thresholds of in-county money raised and numbers of in-county contributors to qualify for matching funds and are subject to caps of public fund receipts.  And if a candidate applies for matching funds and does not meet the thresholds, that person can be ruled ineligible for matching funds.

To examine the origins of contributions in public financing, we accumulated the contribution records of thirteen candidates who have qualified for matching funds: County Executive candidates Marc Elrich, Rose Krasnow and George Leventhal and Council At-Large candidates Gabe Albornoz, Bill Conway, Hoan Dang, Evan Glass, Seth Grimes, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv, Hans Riemer, Mohammad Siddique and Chris Wilhelm.  We did not include contributions to district-level candidates like Sidney Katz, Nancy Navarro and Reggie Oldak because their receipts will inevitably be skewed to their districts, thereby introducing a geographic bias into the data.  We also did not include contributions to non-qualifiers because they may not ultimately receive matching funds.  One important consideration with examining these accounts is that not all of them have last filed on the same dates.  While some were current as of the last regular report in January, others have filed as recently as last week.  That’s because once a candidate qualifies for matching funds, they can apply for new distributions at any time through fifteen days after the general election.  One important constraint for late starters: candidates in the system must qualify for matching funds by 45 days before the primary.  Since the date of this year’s primary is June 26, that means the qualifying period ends on May 12.

This analysis involved an examination of nearly 9,000 records.  We asked two sets of questions.  First, where are in-county contributions eligible for matching funds coming from and how do they compare with both the population and regular Democratic voters?  Second, what are the differences in contribution geography between participating candidates?  Those differences contain illuminating clues to the appeal and strategy of the candidates which could ultimately decide the election.

We will begin unveiling our results in Part Two.

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