Ben Cardin v. Dan Bongino: How has Ben Cardin been financing his campaign?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I’m just a guy, a citizen with a notebook computer who works stupid hours and whose only real hobby is writing. (It’s easy, because I don’t have to get up from my desk and there’s no glue involved. I don’t like glue.) This is my fourth piece on the race between Maryland’s U.S. Senate incumbent, Democrat Ben Cardin, and his opponent, Republican Dan Bongino. If you’re interested, all three previous articles begin with the same “Ben Cardin v. Dan Bongino” that you see in the title above.

Most of us like to root for the underdog, which probably says something about how we view ourselves, how we want to believe the little guy can come from behind, snatching victory from the jaws of seemingly invincible defeat. Unfortunately, in the politics of our time, it’s really hard for the spunky newcomer, without any real money in his campaign, to beat a well-heeled incumbent.

In a fair fight, if money weren’t a factor, Dan Bongino would be the clear choice of Maryland voters. He’s good. More importantly, his opponent, Ben Cardin, has had five plus years in the Senate that have proved to be a huge waste of our time and money, during which he failed to make any discernable difference in the resolution of the major economic, fiscal and other problems our country is facing. Unfortunately, the playing field is well-tilted in Ben Cardin’s favor. He’s the incumbent. Including his terms as a Congressman, he’s been representing Marylanders for 25 years and is very well known among voters for that reason. He’s a Democrat in a state in which Democrats out-voted Republicans in the 2010 gubernatorial election by more than two to one. Dan Bongino, on the other hand, has never held elective office and was relatively unknown to the Maryland electorate prior to the primaries, and even now. And Ben Cardin has money. Lots of it, and lots more than the Bongino campaign.

I’m going to talk about data that I’ve pulled from Federal Election Committee reports available to the public on-line. I’ve looked at summary reports but, more importantly, I’ve developed Excel files which list 1,623 contributions by political action committees and 10,491 contributions by individuals which have been made since 2004 to elect Ben Cardin Senator. This is a lot of data for which I’ve produced summary statistics and tables. We’ll talk about these data, but it’s way too much information to show you in a post. And, to keep it simple, I’m going to use round numbers. If you’re interested, send me an email to and I’ll send the original data I’ve compiled back to you in an attachment.

According to the Federal Election Commission, as of March 31, 2012, Ben Cardin has $2.1 million cash on hand. Dan Bongino’s campaign has less than $30,000 on hand. Big difference, to say the least. People who realize that Ben Cardin needs to be replaced and/or who favor the candidacy of Dan Bongino need to give Dan the financial resources he needs to win. And they need to do it in a hurry.

As far as I can tell, there’s nothing wrong with how the Cardin campaign has been financed, nothing suspect, just interesting. I believe Ben Cardin to be an honest, hardworking guy, sincerely concerned about the welfare of his constituents, typical of most of our nation’s Representatives and Senators. (So is Dan Bongino, which is why he’s running for the Senate.) Unfortunately, these attributes are no reason to reelect someone who has failed to contribute in any significant way to solving the most important problems our families and our country as a whole are facing.

The 1,623 contributions were made by 677 political action committees that gave the Cardin campaign, round numbers, a total of $5.3 million. Of this total, $3.6 million was contributed prior to the November 2006 election which put Mr. Cardin into the Senate. Since then, committees have contributed an additional $1.7 million. To date, in the first three months of 2012, committees have given the campaign only $138,000. No doubt, more will be coming between now and November.

Of the 677 committees that have contributed to the first and now second Cardin campaigns, only seven are responsible for giving more than 1% of the total $5.3 million. And two of the seven are the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has contributed $1.2 million (23% of the total). Of this $1.2 million, $900,000 was contributed on September 26, 2006, just more than a month before that year’s election. Another $254,000 was spent by this committee on behalf of the Cardin campaign, as recorded on September 28, 2006.

The Democratic State Central Committee of Maryland contributed $637,000 (12%), all of it on October 6, 2006, less than a month before the 2006 election.

These last two sources have not yet made comparable contributions for this year’s election, but I suspect they will in the fall, if the Cardin campaign needs the money.

$300,000 (6%) was contributed “Via Ben Cardin for Congress.”

The American Medical Association Political Action Committee contributed $142,000 (3%).

The American Hospital Association PAC contributed $65,000 (1%+).

$60,000 (1%+) was contributed “Via Team Blue.” (These donor descriptions are from the data provided by the campaign to the FEC.)

SEIU COPE, The Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education gave the campaign $59,000 (1%+).

The other 670 committees each contributed less than 1% of the total $5.3 million given since and prior to the 2006 election.

Going through the list of 677 committees making contributions, based on a cursory reading of their committee names, $564,000 (11% of total committee contributions) was given by health industry-related entities, $368,000 (7%) by unions, $94,000 (1.7%) by securities industry committees and $86,000 (1.6%) from the insurance industry-related contributors.

The 10,491 contributions, by individuals contributing over $200, have given the Cardin campaign an impressive total of $9.0 million, net of refunds, since 2004. $389,000 of this total has been raised in first three months of this year. Last year’s total was $1.9 million. Federal law does not require the itemization of contributions which are less than $200.

In the current Congress, 2011 through March 31, 2012, the Cardin campaign has raised $2.3 million from individuals contributing $200 or more, plus $1.2 million from committees, for a rough total of $3.5 million. That total is $600,000 short of the $4.1 million the campaign is reporting, a difference that I suspect is associated with individuals contributing less than $200.

I found 37 instances of the same individuals contributing the maximum $2,500 to the Cardin campaign twice on the same day. The total over-contributed would be $92,500 if not offset by refunds or deleted in corrected reports. I suspect nothing untoward about these double contributions that, if they were accurate, would exceed the federal maximum. They’re probably nothing more than clerical errors.

Okay. Numbers are boring. What’s the point? The point is that, for Dan Bongino to win, to beat an incumbent who is clearly not up to the task of representing Marylanders in the U.S. Senate, and therefore not worth the $1 million, plus benefits, he will have earned during his first six year term (at $174,000 per month), Dan’s going to have raise a lot more money. Was that an obvious conclusion, or what? Obvious? Sure, but nonetheless important.

Where is the Republican National Committee? The National Republican Senatorial Committee? The Marland Republican Party? Senator Cardin is vulnerable for his lack of accomplishments during his first term. “Hellooo? Republicans? Are you paying attention?” Even if Mitt Romney doesn’t move into The White House next January, supporting the Bongino campaign improves your chances of taking the Senate, or of at least protecting the strength of your minority position. If Mitt Romney is elected, he’s going to need all the help he can get. Where’s your money? Where’s your support?

Perhaps even more important, where is the financial support of individual Maryland Republicans and other voters who appreciate the importance of replacing Ben Cardin with someone (Dan Bongino) with a fresh mandate to focus his attention on the most pressing issues of our time, and to not quit or be distracted until they are resolved? Whatever your party affiliation, especially if you’re not sure who you’ll vote for in November, don’t you want to see a fair fight? It’s the only way most Maryland voters will have a reasonable chance of making a smart, well-informed decision between the two candidates.

It’s too bad it’s come to this but, in today’s America, it’s not enough to just vote in the booth, on election day. You want to do this right, you’ve got to vote with your wallet too.

-Next Contestant

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