Where's the money

So the election is just days away and we haven't had a single discussion of campaign financing. There were a few newspaper articles after the previous filing deadline, but I've been unable to glean any kind of consistent information that I could use to compare and contrast the candidates.

I understand there was just another round of reports due, but I haven't seen any coverage of that. So... what do you know, readers? Who's getting how much money and from whom? Anyone want to go up to Hillsborough and do some research?



Here's a Herald-Sun article on contributions-


I think their fascination with the donation patterns of my best friend Justin Guillory is a little curious, but this is the most detailed campaign finance story that I've seen yet during the campaign.

A bit out of date, but just to show what things were like a month ago by comparison, we did an article on campaign finance:

A Students for a Progressive Chapel Hill press release on Will Raymond's campaign reporting-

Chapel Hill Town Council candidate Will Raymond has set a new standard of transparency with his campaign finance reports this fall.

At his website, http://www.blog.willraymond.org/election-contributions/ , interested citizens can see not only who all of Raymond's donors are and how much they gave, but also what their relationship to Raymond or status in the community is. No candidate for office in Chapel Hill in recent memory has ever been so forthright in letting his/her potential constituents know how their campaign is being funded.

A look at the data shows that Raymond is one of the most independent candidates for office to run in Chapel Hill in recent years. The bulk of his contributions come from family, coworkers, friends, and concerned community activists. It's clear that the only agenda Raymond will be pushing as a Council member is that of the best interests of Chapel Hill.

During his campaign Raymond has also promised to provide quarterly reports on the fiscal activities of the town, including an economic report card. He's gotten started by issuing one of his campaign expenditures, which can be seen at http://www.blog.willraymond.org/2005/11/03/campaign-economic-report-card...

Students for a Progressive Chapel Hill endorsed Raymond in part because of his commitment to making sure that Chapel Hill had the most open government possible, and he's shown by the way he's run his campaign that he will fulfill that promise if elected to the Council.

Isn't it interesting that when a candidate is completely in compliance with the law, someone will complain that a contribution is unfair and "very contrary to the spirit of the election?"

Maybe this is why we will never write a campaign finance law that all will agree with, fair or not. After all, what should the standard be, what the law says or what different people assume the "spirit" of the law to be?

Thanks, Tom, for hte link to Will's report. It stands out for its readability as well as the thoroughness of his reporting.

Will really distinguishes himself by his ability to project through his campaign exactly what he'd like to accomplish as a Council member.

One interesting item from the Chapel Hill campaign reports is how low the contribution totals are. Of course, that could change since there was still more than a week to go when the reports were filed.

Recent Chapel Hill elections have seen spending top $10k and even approach 20k. 2003's winners all spent $7-8k.

So far, Harrison is tops in contributions with just over $5k. Kleinschmidt, Thorpe, and Easthom are all near $4k with the other three all well under $2k.

There are a number of factors that might account for the drop in contributions: the perception of a less competitive field, less outreach by candidates, less compelling issues separating the candidates, or perhaps a decreased level of citizen involvement more generally.

Dan, not only have I reported contibutions after the Pre-election report, I also plan to add any that come in before Nov. 8th. The numbers I posted today reflect activity prior to Nov. 4th (and will change if folk continue to contribute). I will continue to update the site until the final report in January 2006.

I thought it was fun that Will's first contribution was from his child, $5 to pay the filing fee.

also see
CARRBORO -- Carrboro's two candidates for mayor submitted campaign spending reports to the Orange County Board of Elections this week.
Alderman Alex Zaffron reported raising $2,515 and spending $1,467.

Alderman Mark Chilton reported raising $3,064 and spending $2,155.

Thanks Gerry for noticing that. My son has been going with us to vote since he was born. He has an amazing enthusiasm I hope will continue throughout the years.

But it's not only him. Before work today, I spoke to his class on government, the different levels and branches and my race for Council. Every child was eager to do their part - whether voting or (and this really caught their attention) speaking before Council !

During lunch I swung by Morehead and we're up to 600 votes cast. The BOE folk think it might be %50 or more students. I think I'll win one bet with a local real cynic that less tha 329 would vote this round.

Will--at least one of the folks who voted at Morehead is (probably) my husband--who will be out of town next week. (I think he was planning on voting today.)

And let me say this--this one-stop voting has been a REAL boon for my husband. He travels frequently, and often at the last minute. Years past, when he THOUGHT he would be home for an election, he has had to travel. Becuase the date had passed for obtaining an absentee ballot he couldn't vote. Didn't happen more than once or twice, and never for a national election, but was frustrating for him.

So HOORAY for one-stop early voting!


For anyone still interested in following the money, I've updated my website to reflect additional expenditures and a %4 increase in contributions.

Does it strike anybody as strange that Carrboro doesn't have campaign limits or reprting requirements more stringent than the state minimum ?

The Chapel Hill Town Council requested and got approval by the General Assembly for the limits/reporting requirements, see
(Section 4)


If Carrboro had its own reporting requirements/spending limits, wouldn't they also need to have staff to monitor the candidate reports? Do you think that would be a good use of tax dollars?

Terri, as far as I'm aware the Orange County Board of Elections handles all enforcement of reporting and spending limits. The only thing that the town of Chapel Hill has done inre: our election finance law was a short paragraph in a letter from the manager welcoming me to the race, and a short statement from the town attorney, which I believe was in response to a specific request made by another candidate.


The BOE is responsible for monitoring compliance with campaign finance laws.
I just find it interesting that Carrboro is lagging behind its supposedly less progressive neighbor.

The State Board of Elections enforces reporting requirements and spending limits which are quite well described and stringent. Any municipality seeking to enforce its own rules would be violating the law.

Catherine, the mode for creating more financial transperancy would be to do exactly what Chapel Hill did. Request that the General Assembly pass a local bill with more reasonable campaign finance requirements for a town the size of Carrboro. I was stunned to find out that an individual can contribute twice the amount to a Carrboro candidate as one can to a presidential candidate. It has the potential for influence peddling.

Hey guys, I've made my final campaign expenditures prior to tomorrow's election. As of 12:35pm Nov. 7th, I've raised $3,135 and spent $3,129.20 leaving $5.80. It looks like I'll have to buy the beverage Jason Baker won from out of my own pocket.

Updated information here.

Hooray for Mark K.

Mark has released his preliminary end-o-campaign expenses/contribution numbers! Looks very good, with about a $0.93 per vote metric. Looks especially good against my $1.29/vote "real" expenditure (taking out the $100 of in-kind web development I did for myself).

I'm going to do a wrap on everyone's numbers (if they release them) sometime in the next week or so.


I hope you will consider running again. I think you'd have made an interesting addition to the council. Thanks for all the number crunching you've been doing!


Thank you Melanie. My campaign was an extension of what I've been up to for awhile, so expect to see some continuing efforts to improve our Town (including a little request for more transparent governance to made before the Council Nov. 21st).

As far as number crunching, I realize I've only been encouraging Chapel Hill candidates to "pre-release" their campaign financials.

If you're a Carrboro candidate or a school board candidate, would you also consider a timely "pre-release" of your numbers?

Releasing the numbers now, close to the election, will help any analysis resonate with our recent electorate. We have about two years to make a case for voter-financed (or partially financed) elections. The sooner we can get the recent analysis out of the way and move on, the better.

Pre-release #'s: (not final per completion of treasurer report):
Total contributions: $4312
Total expenses: $3419
Loan to account (my own $ spent): $175.40
Left over in account: roughly $1000 but if I pay myself back the loan, then subtract that and that's what's left.
Biggest expense: signs and
I did one newspaper ad in CHNEWS, also big expense (roughly $700 for one ad, three issues).
Other big expenses were mailings/paper brochures/stamps.
I had to figure in/out my refund of $300 to my mom to keep contributions $200 or less. Most contributions obviously were less.
Everyone can have fun with all of the candidates reports when they come out and you'll see everything final and to the penny with mine.

Fantastic Laurin.

So, to date, we have Mark at $0.93/vote, Laurin at $0.90/vote (!) and Will at $1.29/vote.

Of course, there's some other very interesting metrics to take into account (# of contributors, $$ per contributor, type of contributor, kind of expenses, timing of expenses, etc.).

I'm hoping that this analysis ends up as part of an informal "manual for running" in Chapel Hill and Carrboro elections.

Thank you Jason, Mark and Laurin for demonstrating a commitment to transparency.

I am delighted by this very low-cost election for CH
council. Special kudos for Laurin's 90 cents per vote as
a newcomer to finish in first place. I remember being
very proud to spend $6700 to get 5240 votes in 1995,
which was $1.28 per vote,
but today's numbers outdistance that performance by a
good margin.

It would be very interesting to compare the 2005 figures to
some recent campaigns, where candidates who failed
or had mediocre performances (e.g., incumbents who
finished fourth) were spending $3 per vote.

I know that several of you are very interested in public
financing of local elections, but the 2005 election figures
do not indicate that there is a problem that needs to be

Joe, I'm trying to make the argument that financing is within reach. For less than the amount spent on the MLK meetup, we could've financed 4 of our campaigns (and maybe more once we get the info). Were their 4 more qualified, interested, concerned potential candidates in Chapel Hill that didn't run because they were intimidated by the cost?

Cost per vote isn't the only metric we should be going on either, it's convenient but not conclusive.

I gave the tarheel very close approxiamte #'s yesterday.

I still think the need for public financing can be best analyzed by looking at the 1995 Chapel Hill results. As I wrote in the Herald (2/14/04)

In 1995, incumbent Pat Evans outspent challenger Richard Franck by a 4.5 to 1 margin to win a 39 vote victory for the fourth-place Council seat. Two years later, Franck lost again, this time by 400 votes to incumbent Lee Pavao who spent over $11000, more than three times Franck's total.
It is hard to dispute the conclusion that, especially in 1995, a VOE program that could have boosted Franck's available funds by thousands of dollars would likely have changed the election day results. Evans' subsequent role in a series of close council votes demonstrates that the developers who funded her campaign got more than their money's worth.

It seems to me that in '97 and '95, there was "a problem to be solved," with Richard Franck on the losing end of it.

A similar boost this year to Will's available funds might not have given him a victory but it would have helped level the playing field.

I'm almost ready with my report - I've just digging through my "election pile" to make sure I've got all my receipts, and tryind to decide whether to reimburse myself for a couple of election related things (staple pullers, duct tape for emergency repairs, etc.) which ended up only having marginally election-related use. Right now, I'm at $1318.14 in, with total expenditures at around $1210, or right at $0.98 per vote. This may change a hair as I continue to sort through things.

It really makes me wonder, though... since all of the candidates who have given any hint towards their finances seem to be getting pretty close to a dollar per vote... what would have happened if I spent the entire month of July on the phone begging people for money? Would $6000-7000 have made me the first place finisher? Probably not. But would it have tipped me up towards the cut-off point? What would the results have been if we all had equal funds, or even just matching funds from a public finance bank?

My campaign, as many of you already know, was self-funded; I neither solicited or accepted contributions from anyone. My reason for this is well-explicated in my blog.

As you also know, the budget of a law student who is also a single parent can only be described in terms of a certain kind of legume Jimmy Carter was famous for growing.

Total tally: $190.

Some of you might note that earlier I had spoke of putting together 25 signs at $8 a pop. Well, that kind of money just did not exist in my budget and I opted to distribute brochures that I had designed (using MS Publisher, which I had purchased two years earlier for an unrelated purpose) and printed (on a color laser printer I had also purchased earlier for reasons that had nothing to do with campaigning).

I made 700 brochures. The brochures cost $.20 each to produce, including the cost of the paper, the ink, and the tri-folding work at Kinko's. I never did any mass mailing. I went door to door mostly.

I have learned my lesson: if you want to win, you have to pay. My political naivete is telling, I know, so please no reminders about how silly I am to decline money when it could have made a difference. Again, though wrong-headed, I am proud of the idealism that motivated my decision, and my willingness to stick to that decision even in the face of an increasing awareness of the ill effects of that decision.

I would be interested in hearing from the candidates (whether or not successful) and anyone else (such as Dan, etc) who might want to comment on how they envision public financing might work on the local level. How do you separate someone who might put down the $5 filing fee on a whim from someone who works their butt off to get the issues before the electorate? Should public funds be matching funds? Should there be some threshhold to qualify? If so, what kind of threshhold? Are there models in other communities that could be looked at?

In anticipation of a possible criticism based on what I just wrote, let me state that I am proud of my willingness to stick to my decision NOT because I over-value tenacity--even in the face of adverse effects--over flexibility, but rather because the initial decision was based on a promise I made not only to myself but to my candidacy (and thus, the people I hoped to represent).

I figured, like I state in my blog, that it was important that I would assume elected office beholden to no one but the diverse and legitimate concerns of all the citizens of Carrboro.

Wow! Great response.

So, anyone interested in tackling the question of the value of "incumbency"?

Seems to me that incumbency always comes with one positive, name recognition, and one potential negative (or additional positive), a record reflecting your real nature.

For instance, what was the total benefit of an unexamined negative record plus name recognition? Would Ed have had to spend a little more or much more than did (where are those numbers Ed?) if he had to explain various lapses? What was the value of not having to defend his record - $700, $2000, $5000? I know there was some additional costs he encurred fighting the loss of the Sierra Club endorsement (all those interesting yellow signs posted on election day). I imagine that expense wasn't prohibitive.

Besides signs, I spent $1600 or so, more than %50 of my budget, sending out "Who is this Raymond guy?" literature to about 3,200 potential voters. What's the equivalent for a Chapel Hill incumbent with name recognition?

..."incurred" fighting the loss...


People like to support candidates and it makes them feel more a part of the effort and contributes to volunteer work.

The original Chapel Hill VOE proposal is here.

Dan wrote in February 2004 and posted today that "Evans' subsequent role in a series of close council votes demonstrates that the developers who funded her campaign got more than their money's worth."

Did these contributors "buy" her votes or did they support a candidate that they thought would consider both sides of an issue before voting and give them a fair hearing?

What about twenty Sierra Club members who contribute to a candidate? Are they "buying" a council member when that council member makes a decision to support something that the Sierra Club favors?

Or what about sitting council members who contribute to the campaigns of challengers? Are they "buying" allies to support their policy aims? There's no law against it but what about that "spirit" thing?

Thus, trying to pre-determine the motives of contributors is risky business, especially if their true interest is in supporting a person for the job who will listen and be fair. The labeling that goes on tends to block such good motives from ever being considered.

Transparency is fine, but even with all the possible transparency we can design, it still comes down to the personal honesty and integrity of the candidate and those who support the candidate. Transparency will not reveal the outside/independent support that a candidate receives, or any non-monetary help. All of our attempts to date tend to prove once again that we fail when we attempt to legislate morality.


I used volunteers (probably about a total of 20-25 excellent people), many of them who blog here on a regular basis. The work they did on behalf of my candidacy I will never forget. Yet, I do not feel beholden to them in the same way that I would be if they had donated money.

I can't really explain the difference.

One of the differences between 1995 and 2005 is the free communications vehicle of the Internet. How many fewer brochures did Will or Robin Cutson print due to their expectations that many of us preference electronic communications? How much less money was spent on fundraising through the use of email?

Joe--I don't think the low per vote figure provides evidence for stopping discussion of publicly-funded elections. As Will says, we will never know how many qualified, interested citizens did not file due to lack of resources. What the local per vote figure does signify is that we may not need to provide more than $1000 per candidate (which the candidate would have to match prior to becoming eligible).

Terri raises a good point. Though I'm not sure how effective my use of the Internet was, it did bring some new people into my campaign that otherwise might not have joined me. In reality, I probably ended up being hurt pretty badly by my tendancy to stay at home and read OP and send emails rather than canvassing as much as I should have.

But I certainly did enjoy being able to hand out business cards and asking people to see my website for more information. It seemed like having a more dynamic source would be beneficial. I have no idea what the follow through rate might have been. I doubt it was nearly as high as I might have hoped.

Ultimately, getting the lowest dollars per vote figure that is possible should be the goal of any progressive campaign. I think that the amount of money _I_ spent was excessive, and far beyond what local elections should demand. The closer we can get to equal spending and voters making their decisions based on forums and platforms, in my opinion, the better.


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