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Continued: Self-funded campaigns for Congress often a gamble

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 31, 2014 - 8:31 PM

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden, an investment banker worth between $15 million and $57 million, has not contributed any of his own money to his campaign and has no plans to do so, aides said. McFadden is the leading Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Al Franken.

“Every dollar we’ve raised and spent has been donated to this campaign, and that’s how Mike plans to approach the rest of the race,” said McFadden campaign spokesman Tom Erickson.

It cost $1.6 million on average to win a House campaign in 2012, according to a report by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Malbin expects outside cash to far outpace what the candidates in the Eighth District raise. In 2012, outside groups spent more than $10 million in the race.

Fight to the finish

Of the 23 self-funders who won races in the past decade, nine received at least half their money from other donors. Mills falls into that camp. So far, his campaign loan represents about 10 percent of the $1.13 million raised through the end of June.

Nationwide, loans that candidates make to their own campaigns represent 23 percent of the money raised by congressional challengers, said Malbin, of the Campaign Finance Institute.

Mills’ fundraising prowess and willingness to tap his own financial well offers a clear contrast with Nolan, 70, who returned to Congress in 2012 after a 32-year hiatus. Nolan has resisted pressure from party leaders to spend several hours per day chasing campaign cash.

That refusal helped land Nolan in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline program, which offers campaign and fundraising aid to the most vulnerable House Democrats. He’s one of just 11 House incumbents who have been outraised by challengers this election cycle.

Nolan supporters note that he unseated the GOP’s Chip Cravaack in 2012, despite Cravaack’s $1 million fundraising advantage.

Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau • Twitter: @C_C_Mitchell

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