Unfinished Business

Guest post by Will Raymond

Here's a last bit of business from the 2003 Council campaign.

A little background. Before attending Daily Tarheel forum, I went to the Board of Elections to check out all the candidates' campaign reports. I was looking for one thing, but was completely surprised to find another.

The surprise? The pattern of contributions to Candidate Bachman was unlike any other of the candidates. She was receiving most of her money via large contributions from a few in the development community. This was unlike her fellow candidates whose contributions varied across the spectrum and came from a broad range of residents.

Based on this anomalous pattern, I decided to ask Candidate Bachman two questions at that night's forum.

One, given that she was seeking to correct an image problem - that she was unduly influenced by outside interests � how could taking 60% of her funds from this group of contributors possibly help her rework that image? Two, was this very unusual pattern of contributions continuing?

She ducked the first question. On the second question, she told me I could wait until January to take a look.

So now I've looked and, like my last trip to the BOE, there's a major surprise � a Candidate McSwain surprise!

In the time period 9/20 to 10/17, the period that raised my initial concerns, the Bachman campaign raised $5,365.

Of the $5,365, $2,500 (46%) came from identifiable development interests like Franklin St. Partners ($600), Resolute ($400), East/West Partners ($200), McAdam's Engineering ($200), Lewis Builders ($200) and Dixon Homes ($200).

Amazingly, $3,300, comprising 14 $200 and 5 $100 contributions, of that $5,365 or 61% came from just 19 people.

In the time period I asked about (10/18-12/31) and that Candidate Bachman didn't want to discuss, her campaign raised $7,355.

She had also loaned the campaign $5000 for a total of $18,300 raised ($409 was later used to repay part of the loan).

Given her 2,451 votes, this is about $7.46 per vote.

Similar to her previous reporting period, $3200 of $7,335 came from just 18 identifiable development-oriented contributors.

I believe this is one of the most striking numbers. If another reporting period could be wedged in prior to the election, say ending 10/31, the electorate would have been fully aware of this influx of cash.

Again, like the earlier period, her campaign got contributions from a development who's who: Meadowmont Realty ($600), East/West ($400), Dixon Homes ($400), Wieland Homes ($200) and Tingen Builders ($200).

The great majority of the developer-oriented money came from out-of-town. In fact, of the 14 contributors sending the maximum of $200, 13 weren't Chapel Hill residents. All four $100 contributions of this type were from out-of-town.

So, during this short period prior to the election, $3,000 of $3,200 came from these out-of-town developers. Only two large non-development oriented contributions during this period came from residents, both at $100.

By contrast, there were only four contributions from any source were reported between 10/31-11/07.

The 38 contributions prior to the election raised $4,115. Residents contributed $1,030 (25%), non-residents $3,085 (75%). Again, if the electorate had known that in the final weeks of the campaign that Candidate Bachman had received 3/4 of her money from out-of-town and with a significant portion of that being from contributors with business interests before the council, I'm sure it would have been raised as an issue.

After the election, Candidate Bachman received over 39 contributions amounting to $3,220. None came from obvious development-oriented sources. There were six $200, one $150 and five $100 contributions. Three of the six $200 contributions came from non-residents. Two came from residents and $200 from a mystery CCB account. The remaining six big-ticket contributions, those between $100 and $150, came from residents.

With only $550 of the post-election $3,220 coming from out-of-town, it appears her in-town financial support was much stronger after her defeat.

All together, she spent $18,300 for this election (so not quite matching Mr. Pavao, who strangely enough had a similar pattern of fund raising), but by any measure, is still quite a chunk of money.

What about the Candidate McSwain surprise?

His campaign started with $253 on-hand during this final election period.

The campaign raised $2,900 after 10/17 giving him a total of about $4200. With 751 votes this is about $5.55 per vote.

Incredibly, $2,300 was raised between 11/26 and 12/11. He had 11 contributions of $200, with 9 from non-residents. Additionally, he had one non-resident contribution of $100.

In addition, his campaign kept money ($200) from one contributor that Ms. Bachman's campaign rejected.

Also, like Ms. Bachman, he received a big contribution from a Dawsonville, Georgia resident.

What does this mean? The McSwaim campaign raised 73% of its funds nearly three weeks after the election. Over 65% came from just 10 non-residents with over 79% came from just 12 contributors.

Would the electorate have seen Candidate McSwain in a different light if they'd known about this? Hard to say, as, unlike Candidate Bachman, these contributions came well after the election.

In any case, these contributions deserve some type of explanation.

Let's look at Candidate Hill's contributions to provide some contrast.

Councilman Hill has said he'd like to keep Chapel Hill's money in Chapel Hill. Based on his contributions, I'd say so do the people who supported him. He received many small contributions from a wide variety of mostly resident contributors prior to the 10/17 reporting period.

For this election cycle, his campaign raised a total of $6,355 which is roughly $1.75 a vote. Of this, $2,180 (34%) was raised after the 10/17 reporting period from 30 contributors, with almost all of it coming in prior to the election.

During this final period, he received five non-resident contributions amounting to $540 (24%) or 8% of the total raised. The remaining 25 contributions, amounting to $1,640 (76%) or 26% of his total raised, came from residents.

Of the out-of-town money, he received one $200, one $150 and one $100 contribution. Of in-town money, he received two $200, one at $110 and five $100 contributions.

The closest identifiable developer contribution came from a house inspector name Cam Hill.

What might we learn from this analysis and the reports?

First, a reporting period should be wedged in ending one week prior to the election.

Second, it was obvious that Candidates Foy, Strom and Ward were old hands at reporting as they omitted the occupations of the under $100 contributors. New candidates should be encouraged to follow Councilmember Greene's and Hill's example and at least try to fill this out.

Finally, the candidate's should acknowledge that the source of their funds could be indicative of where their allegiances lie. They shouldn't follow Candidate Bachman's example and not address this concern, but, instead, should be as open as possible.

Will Raymond can be reached at willr AT email DOT unc DOT edu.

Issues: 

Total votes: 209

Comments

Dave, I noticed the Mayor Foy's forms were typed out instead of hand-written. I wonder if he had some template to work from.

Will: Yes, BOE has "editable pdf" files downloadable from the NC-BOE website. You can open them in Adobe Acrobat, fill in the blanks, save, email, & print them. BOE accepts hardcopy completed forms only.

An easy alternative to sports video board ads

For years I have campaigned for a luxury tax on entertainment admissions as the fairest possible source of public revenue. A tax of this type should be approved as a state-wide law by the Legislature, with the local governments sharing rebated income on the basis of how much originated there. Despite the fact that the University must raise the ticket prices every year or two anyhow, just to keep up with rising costs, it has always opposed this idea as local or state-wide legislation.

Now the University is considering selling additional advertising in Kenan Stadium and the Dean Dome to raise needed funds to finance athletic scholarships, in light of significant tuition increases. The present low-key video advertising brings in a comparative pittance so the skids are greased to sell all kinds of advertising on the football and basketball video boards and, probably, anywhere else they sell a commercial.

Some of the decision-makers recognize that this new commercialization is not the kind of thing Tar Heel people appreciate. I suggest that the answer is to instead raise the ticket prices a dollar or two to bring in whatever new sports scholarship money they need and whatever the market will bear. Thus ticket purchasers would see their money going for just what they want – scholarship money to recruit a winning team.”

The advantage of this is that it doesn’t require any authorization by the Legislature or anybody else, and would bring in more money than advertising, subject to the higher ticket prices charged. There’d be no extra cost such as commission to ad agents and cost of production. The ticket prices would recoup the increased cost of tuition and avoid any more sports commercialization.

I like Will's suggestion on a more real-time, more accessible repository for campaign contrbutions data. As another option, were there a public location for the files, the completed .pdf (Adobe Acrobat) files whose hardcopy is sent to the board of elections could be used. In addition to "last name, resident status, occupation and date of receipt" this would also have employer & city, which could be enlightning.

Of course there are some hurdles, such as having candidates agree to do this, no direct way to verify that these forms are identical to those sent to the BOE, not always having address & employee information at the time a check is rcvd., and the extra work involved in uploading data.

As Sally Greene's campaign treasurer, I did 62 pages of the Contributions from Individuals form.

Joe, maybe you can get your CS students to create or modify an open source system for tracking contributions.

It didn't take me very much time to write down the contributions for several candidates (and I can hardly write longhand anymore), so I easily imagine that even with the flurry of activity in the last two weeks of the campaign a candidate could get these records in.

For instance, it wouldn't have taken the Bachman campaign too long to register their last minute contributions - which, while the maximum amount, only came from a few contributors. Of course, Candidates Greene and Hill would've had to spend more time entering all the low dollar contributions the received from their larger base of contributors.

With this system, I'd limit the information to last name, resident status, occupation and date of receipt. That should be enough, don't you think?

Maybe someone (Ruby?) would be willing to host such a system for the next election. If a couple candidates signed up to use it, hopefully pressure from the electorate and the media would help convince any hold-outs it would be in their best interest to participate.

With a freely available infrastructure, there should be no excuse for a candidate not reporting their fund raising activities.

The downside of this scrutiny, of course, is that a candidate like Ms. Bachman can self-finance their campaign and then have contributors, as Mr. Black puts it, who "....may not have even voted for the person but just want to help them out with their debt" back-fill the deficit.

I'm assuming Mr. Black was referring to the %75 of final period contributions which came from these good souls that didn't even vote, because, of course, as non-residents of Chapel Hill they couldn't vote.

I don't know a way to get around this problem, do you?

Will, I never made any remarks addressing specific candidates or their fundraising activities. I don't know why anyone didn't answer any questions or why they might want to play coy, except maybe that they believed people would assume that correlation implies causation.

As for what to call you beliefs, that's your call.

Will is right on in one thing: We shouldn't be learning this

stuff at the beginning of February; we should be learning

it at the end of October, so that who finances campaigns

becomes a greater part of the voting decision. The campaign

finance reporting regulations are set by state law and they

are obviously designed to protect

the incumbents and to confuse and keep information from the

voters until after the election. They were also defined before

the computer-internet age.

It would be wonderful if there

were an on-line finance reporting system that is available

in real-time for campaign contributions and spending which

was available to everyone, especially the media, to read.

The only non-political reason I can figure out is that the

last two weeks of a campaign are extremely full and it would

be difficult practically for a candidate to keep his or her

records up to date during this period.

I've got a theory that may never be tested: I believe that all the money spent on campaign signs may be unnecessary. Everybody does it because everybody does it.

Also, Joyce Brown ran several successul campaigns and spent around $500 per campaign I think. Can anybody else corroborate this?

Mark

Mark Chilton's recent campaign is another good exmaple of the Marcoplos theory. He spent a lot of shoe leather, though. I don't know how consistently the theory can be applied.

Mr. Black, I don't know about the political science ramifications but I do know that Candidate Bachman hurt her chances when she didn't answer questions about her backing.

At the point in the election when I asked Ms. Bachman about the unusual (at least compared to her other 10 candidates) pattern of contributions she was receiving, she chose to duck the question.

Remember, she had been trying to establish her independence from both the development-oriented community and her entanglements at UNC. In fact, she had run an advertisement trying to establish her independence and her broad base of support.

I thought that her campaigns receipt of over %60 of her funding from 19 people, with over %45 coming from one type of contribution (maximum amounts from pro-developers) undermined this contention.

I can now understand why she didn't want to shine any light on her additional funding sources, as it appears her campaign was overwhelmingly underwritten by both the UNC establishment and the development-oriented interests.

If she had been forced to disclose this one-week prior to the election or if she had just opened up at the forum, there would have been a very clear track record for the electorate to judge her behavior

She chose to be coy though, a rather unforgivable trait in an elected official. It's quite possible an open approach would have actually benefited her campaign.

So, to sum up, Candidate Bachman asserted one thing, her independence from a particular mindset and group, while receiving massive contributions that belied those same assertions.

I don't know what the political scientist call that, but I do know what I call it.

Political Scientists know a lot about the relationship between money and elections, and lesson one that is taught is not to fall into the trap of confusing correlation with causation. It's risky business for obvious reasons and sometimes leads us to shoehorning the "facts" to justify our analysis.

Some thoughts:

- some who usually believe in freedom of speech accept campaign giving limits as a necessary evil to be tolerated. Makes for an interesting values conflict for lots of folks. Money from a broad base is interpreted as a meaningful indicator of community support while large gifts from some corporate entity is seen as something less than desirable.

- thus, it is dangerous thinking to assume that "corporate" donors who give within the established limits are "bad" and want some under the table return on their "investment," while those individuals who do the same are "good" and want nothing in return. In both cases, donors tend to support those whom they have confidence in, think that they will do a good job, and believe that they will give them a fair and respectful hearing when they seek something from government. Remember, correlation does not mean causation, and are we only willing to offer "free speech" to some? If only those who have resources were able to be heard, that would be something else, but one of the great thigs about this community is that one gets a hearing if they want one.

- challengers who win generally do have to spend more than incumbents, especially in multi-seat, at-large elections like we have in Chapel Hill. When that doesn't happen, one must look further for explanations, and in this last election, there were several: the "bundling" of candidates; the focus on how one would deal with UNC, the candidate's relationship to UNC; and the large field of very qualified candidates.

- the ratio between dollars spent to votes received only tells us just that, for it lacks true explanatory power to do much more than be a comparative figure on spending by the candidates. It's hard to discern how many decided NOT to vote for whatever reason(s). Of course, deciding not to vote is in fact a "vote" that doesn't get reflected on the tally sheet. The figure also fails to reveal where sympathies were in the group that just never got to the polls for whatever reason(s). This figure also excludes the "costs" borne by other supporters, "free" campaign publicity, and incumbency advantage (TV and other media coverage, as well as other real advantages). And I definitely agree with Joe - the forums make a "contribution" and a difference (in spite of one candidate's claim that he found them frustrating; people tell me that they helped them reach their decisions).

- what about those who give to more candidates than can be elected? What does this do to the math? Those donors who do so are comfortable with more candidates than can win. And in our system, we have no idea of how many voters cast votes for four, three, two, one or none in a four person race. This really messes with the math!

- money received after the election is usually to help the candidate retire a debt. Some of those who give may be repeat donors, some first time donors, and some may not have even voted for the person but just want to help them out with their debt.

- when we characterize the "corporate" interest donors (developers, UNC, etc.), do we do the same with individuals: "If s/he gave that campaign money, my vote's not going there!" How do we explain the variety of people who may be on the same contribution list but we believe are opposites in their policy preferences? Once again, linear thinking is debunked!

Political Science IS fun!

I agree with Joe C that the real upshot of these numbers is to suggest that campaign spending did not make much difference in the race. Note however that the cost of running may have had an effect on who decided to run. Maybe.

Also, while forums and so forth are helpful, what really decided the Chapel Hill race was something else. Several of the candidates succeeded in framing the race as a decision between Tough on UNC vs. Soft on UNC. I don't mean to put value judgements on this; I just think this is what happened.

Voters chose sides in the Tough vs. Soft race and although the Soft (or allegedly Soft) candidates spent more, they mostly lost - because they were perceived as Soft, not because of their spending. Tough candidates won for the same reason (toughness, not spending). Of course, the Tough candidates could not have gotten their message out without the forums, the newspapers and the spending. I am over simplifying the race, but not by much.

Let's break down who those people cited by Will are (with a little less objectivity):

All of those DuBose family contributions are interesting. The DuBose family is associated with Meadowmont, I believe. Here are those names (plus the Meadowmont Developer):

D. St. Pierre DuBose Jr.

John McNeely Dubose

Faison DuBose Bohlayer

Roger Perry

Also, FYI Antoine Peuch is a commercial real estate investor in downtown Chapel Hill. He owns the building that Michael Jordan's Restaurant was in. He contributes to any candidate that he thinks can win and has been doing so for many years. Often this means contributing to more than four candidates. The fact that he did not give to McSwain reflects his assessment that Mike was not going to win.

Rebecca Maitland is associated with Top of the Hill owner Scott Maitland and the Chamber of Commerce which he headed up at one time.

David Godschalk is a planning professor and former council member. He is also angry about red light cameras (in favor of them).

Bob Reda is a republican former council candidate who lives in Chandler's Green. While he supports the Habitat development on Sunrise road, he was an opponent of East Chapel Hill high.

Lisa Price and Robin Lackey-Jacobs are the spouses (respectively) of US Rep. David Price and Orange Co Commissioner Barry Jacobs. Probably it would be unwise to attach too much significance to these contributions because they are probably just giving to candidates who have been supporters (financially) of David's or Barry's campaigns.

Dianne LeMasters is a local government hanger-on (like so many of us). She falls in the same basic category as Dianne Bachman politically. She is not buying influence; she's supporting her kind. Irene Briggaman is similar.

Robert Seymour is the retired Pastor of Binkley Baptist. He rages for the liberal causes in the newspaper but backs the old guard in local elections.

Edith Wiggins is an indecorous member of the Town Council.

The following are unknown to me:

Russell M. Carter

Dennis Rochelle III

James Wiley

David Ravin

Lynne Kane

A quick comment on why Joe C.'s and my calculations on dollars per vote differ. My calculation was dollars RAISED per vote. Joe C.'s was dollars SPENT per vote.

His figure makes sense if you're calculating how much a vote 'costs'.

I was trying to look at the amount of money sent to a candidate and how much it cost the contributors. If a candidate got $5000 from a contributor and spent $1000 to get 1000 votes, it cost the contributor $5 per vote (unless the excess is returned ) and it cost the candidate $1 per vote.

The idea here is that the contributor didn't get much bang for their bucks (even if the candidate did).

I should have been clearer on this distinction. Heck, maybe it isn't even relevant as the only candidate with a major surplus was Mr. McSwain.

Oh, and Joe, you're definitely right about the forums being nearly invaluable. I hope that next election cycle the format could be altered a little to let the candidates mix it up more with each other and the public.

Joe, thanks for the breakdowns. Here's a quick look at relationships between candidates based on who contributed to whom. You might see that some of the "special interests" are missing - in other words - they concentrated their monies on one candidate, Ms. Bachman.

I voted for Mr. Ward the first time around and if you had asked me if he had shared much in common with Ms. Bachman, I would have said no. This was based on his campaign rhetoric. I'm wondering if I had done an analysis of his contributors and seen that he seemed to share a strong base of support with a candidate I didn't agree with that I might have at least dug deeper into his background.

Again, I think this type of analysis makes a strong argument for wedging in a reporting period closer to the end of the election. Of course, that penalizes those candidates that can't self-finance, and, reward those capable of hiding their real stream of support. Maybe there should be some consequence for delaying cashing and reporting of contributions, but I'm not sure how you could really craft one.

Analysis of relationships between final period contributors.

* R. Carter's contribution was returned by the Bachman campaign.

Contributor, (# of Candidates Getting $),(B)achman,(M)cSwain,(W)ard,Total

Rebecca Maitland (3)(B:$200),(M:$200),(W:$100),Total=$500

Faison DuBose Bohlayer (3)(B:200),(M:200),(W:100),Total=500

Russell M. Carter (2)(B:200),(M:200),(W: ),Total=400

Roger Perry (2)(B:200),(M:200),(W: ),Total=400

Dennis Rochelle III (2)(B:200),(M: ),(W:100),Total=300

D. St. Pierre DuBose Jr.(2)(B:200),(M: ),(W:100),Total=300

John McNeely Dubose (2)(B: ),(M:200),(W:100),Total=300

James Wiley (2)(B:200),(M: ),(W:100),Total=300

Antoine A. Puech (2)(B:100),(M: ),(W:100),Total=200

David Ravin (2)(B:50 ),(M: ),(W:100),Total=150

David Godschalk (2)(B:85 ),(M: ),(W:25 ),Total=110

Bob Reda (2)(B:50 ),(M: ),(W:50 ),Total=100

Lisa Price (2)(B:50 ),(M: ),(W:50 ),Total=100

Dianne LeMasters (2)(B:50 ),(M: ),(W:25 ),Total=75

Robert Seymour (2)(B:25 ),(M: ),(W:50 ),Total=75

Irene Briggaman (2)(B:50 ),(M: ),(W:25 ),Total=75

Robin Lackey-Jacobs (2)(B:35 ),(M: ),(W:25 ),Total=60

Edith Wiggins (2)(B:30 ),(M: ),(W:30 ),Total=60

Lynne Kane (2)(B:25 ),(M: ),(W:25 ),Total=50

Here are the dollars per vote for the candidates, using the DTH spending figures.

7.32 Bachman

6.32 Juliano

8.48 Freund

1.55 Greene

1.47 Strom

1.89 Ward

1.73 Hill

3.42 Schworer

3.44 Tyson

2.21 McSwain

Obviously money did not talk; it hardly whispered. The four

winners spent the least.

But without going into the (yes important) observations about

who and which special interests gave money to whom,

we can still conclude some other things. The two sucessful

newcomers, Sally and Cam spent the same amount as the two incumbents, Bill and Jim. To me this means that the classic

argument, "As a newcomer, I must spend more because I'm not

well known and I must get my name out", does not apply.

Why not? Probably because of the very public campaign

structure and high level of media coverage we have here. The

forums and their coverage are a wonderful service to the citizens

and we should be grateful to the organizations that sponsor them.

Seven dollars per vote is a huge amount of money for a town

of 50,000 people where TV ads are not practical because of

the distribution and coverage of the stations.

To spend so much and achieve so little is frankly embarassing.

To make any difference in the outcome, fifth-place finisher

Dianne Bachman had to reach fourth place,

with an additional 1123 votes, a 46 pct

increase in her performance. If we simply extrapolate her

spending rate, that would have cost an additional 8,200 dollars,

bringing her total to $26,000. But even that would not have

worked, for she had passed the point of diminishing returns.

So I agree with Ruby that we should be happy that we have

a community where character matters more than dollars in our

elections.

That's right. Simple solution to an obvoius obfuscationary process.

Mark

On reviewing my notes I realized that this line might be a little confusing:

"By contrast, there were only four contributions from any source were reported between 10/31-11/07."

Based on my notes, it was 3 on 11/4 and 1 on either 11/4 or 11/7 (couldn't read the number).

If I include the A. Puech contribution as coming in on 11/7, then there were 3 before the election and 40 after the election.

Someone asked me how I figured the dates. I used the dates recorded on the reports. I guess it is possible that the campaigns kept thousands of dollars in checks they received prior to the election but it doesn't seem likely. If they did keep the checks, I'd welcome a detailed clarification.

One last clarification I'm hoping the Bachman campaign makes is to explain the CCB $200 recorded 12/11 and the cash donations ($85) recorded 11/17.

Thw DTH has some great coverage of the latest campaign finance reports here: http://www.dailytarheel.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/02/04/4020f5a0e7f0a

In fact if you look at this chart http://www.dailytarheel.com/vnews/display.v?TARGET=showImage&article_id=4020f5a0e7f0a&image_num=1 you'll see that the top three and bottom three spenders lost. It's great to see that, beyond a certain baseline, money doesn't do much in Chapel Hill politics.

I would really like to see Will's type of analysis done addressing all of the candidates. Anyone want to put together a simple table showing the candidates, number of votes each, amount raised, and amount loaned to self (maybe by reporting period)? This was done in early October here: http://www.orangepolitics.org/archives/000011.html

And also previously discussed here: http://www.orangepolitics.org/archives/000061.html

and here: http://www.orangepolitics.org/archives/000084.html

 

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