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Senate Candidates Mislead When Announcing Fundraising Numbers

Not filing FEC reports electronically allows candidates to spin their totals

Mike Braun, the GOP nominee for Senate in Indiana, actually loaned his campaign $1 million during the second quarter. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Mike Braun, the GOP nominee for Senate in Indiana, actually loaned his campaign $1 million during the second quarter. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At least two Republican Senate candidates who kicked their own money into their campaigns issued misleading statements about their second quarter fundraising this month.

Press releases that paint a rosier picture of candidates’ fundraising than their official quarterly reports are a reminder of the anachronistic reporting standards to which only Senate hopefuls are held.

Unlike House candidates — or anyone else registered with the Federal Election Commission — Senate contenders do not have to file their reports electronically.

They file them on paper, which means there’s a lag between when the campaigns try to get good headlines by announcing their numbers to the press and when the press is able to actually review those reports. Local reporters, though, have been picking up on the discrepancies.

In Indiana, former state Rep. Mike Braun, the GOP nominee challenging Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, “has not raised as much money from campaign supporters as he recently implied,” The Indianapolis Star reported Sunday.

Braun’s original July 12 press release announced “$2.5 million raised with over $1 million cash on hand at quarter close, including nearly $1.5 million raised since the day after the primary, without personal contributions or loans.”

But as the Star reports, Braun only raised about $1.5 million from contributors, according to his official FEC report, which is not yet available on the website. He loaned himself nearly $1 million of the $2.5 million his campaign said he had raised. 

The campaign told the Star that the clause “without personal contributions or loans” in its original statement only referred to the money he raised since the primary. 

But the newspaper reported that Braun’s filing still showed him loaning his campaign $350,000 since the primary. He had reportedly said he wasn’t going to self-fund his general election campaign. 

From the Archives: Fundraising Reports Say a Lot About a Campaign

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who’s challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, impressed many political observers earlier this month by announcing July 9 that he had had raised $10.7 million in the second quarter without “any candidate contributions.” That would be a departure for the Republican who spent his own money on his gubernatorial campaigns. 

But his quarterly report, filed with the FEC on July 12, shows that he also contributed more than $14 million to his campaign during the quarter, which means his total receipts reported on his FEC report actually total $22.5 million. Scott’s campaign could not explain why his press release omitted the personal contribution. 

As the Tampa Bay Times reported last week, Scott only raised $7.3 million during the second quarter because the originally-announced haul also included $3.1 million he raised in a joint fundraising committee with the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

The delay in reporting also allows candidates to leave out key information, too. Ohio Rep. James B. Renacci, for example, announced in a July 9 release that he raised more than $2 million in the second quarter. His press release clearly stated that the money included contributions to both Renacci’s Senate campaign and a joint fundraising committee, but as reported, it did not provide a breakdown of how much money went to each committee. That can only be found on each committee’s reports.

There is a bipartisan movement to force Senate candidates to file electronically, but it’s unclear when that legislative update, if passed as part of a much bigger appropriations bill, would take effect. It costs taxpayers an estimated $898,000 for the FEC to digitize all those paper forms. 

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