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​Incumbents enjoy big fundraising advantage in S.C.

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In South Carolina, the fundraising and spending gap between Democrats and Republicans running for national office is wide and vast.

According to data obtained from the Federal Election Commission, incumbents for statewide races in South Carolina enjoyed a $4 million fundraising edge in U.S. House races and a whopping $5.9 million advantage in the state’s lone U.S. Senate race.

“Incumbents usually have an advantage in fundraising because they have a wider range of name recognition, not just in the state, but across the country,” said Danielle Vinson, professor of political science at Furman University. “A lot of times, interest groups and PACs contribute to both sides of the aisle because they don’t have any idea where the power will be.”

In the U.S. Senate race where Republican incumbent Tim Scott faced two challengers in Democrat Thomas Dixon and Libertarian William Bledsoe, the fundraising and spending gap in the race is extreme as Scott has raised $5.94 million according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. Those filings – through Oct. 19 – have Scott’s campaign disbursing just over $3.99 million and having right around $4.4 million in cash on hand.

In comparison, Dixon reported having $36,598 in receipts and $32,828 in disbursements and Bledsoe had $2,180 in receipts and $1,657 in disbursements.

Among Scott’s contributions, just over $3 million was from individuals and $2.73 million came from political action committees, or PACs. Just over $449,200 came to the campaign from party committees. Dixon reported receiving $19,680 from individuals and $3,450 from PACs. He received $250 from party committees. All of Bledsoe’s receipts came from himself and the campaign lists a debt of $2,180 to Bledsoe.

“He (Scott) becomes someone the Republicans hope has a great future,” Vinson said. “The party has been criticized for not having enough diversity and Tim Scott and Nikki Haley have become somewhat darlings in the party because there is no question as to their Republican ideologies.

“He knew he needed to raise money early so he would not have any primary challengers and because he is a mainstream conservative, groups really embrace him.”

U.S. House races

House races in Upstate congressional districts tell a similar story. Republican incumbents Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney have outraised their Democrat challengers by wide margins.

Gowdy, representing the Fourth Congressional District – which includes Greenville, Spartanburg and part of Laurens counties – has raised the most of any Upstate official, $1,504,985. Of that total, $1,208,630 is from individual contributors and $289,000 is from PACs. The campaign reported disbursing $1.2 million during the reporting period from January 2015 to Oct. 19. His opponent, Christopher Fedalei, reported raising close to $92,000 with $85,743 coming from individuals and $2,940 coming from PACs along with $3,108 in a loan from Fedalei to his campaign. The campaign has disbursed $88,782.

“He is on committees that, if you have a divided government like we do, go after the other party,” Vinson said. “It raises the profile of those sitting on those committees and he is more than happy to take advantage of that.

“With cable television polarizing, specifically with MSNBC and Fox News, it really widens his audience.”

In the Third Congressional District – which includes all of Abbeville, Anderson, Edgefield, Greenwood, McCormick, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda and most of Laurens counties – Duncan reported receiving $554,334 through Oct. 19. Of that, $237,661 came from individuals and $316,300 came from PAC donations. His Democrat challenger, Hosea Cleveland, raised $9,045 during the period with $904 coming from individuals and $5,164 coming from the candidate in loan. Cleveland’s campaign reported no money from PACs, but $2,000 coming from the Democrat Party and disbursement of $6,517.

In the Fifth Congressional District – representing Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Newberry, Sumter, Union, York and part of Lee counties – Mulvaney’s campaign reported receipts of $1,175,147 with $545,053 coming from individuals and $628,520 being raised through PACs. The campaign said it disbursed $866,580. His opponent, Frances Person, has raised the most by any Democrat candidate outside of Sixth Congressional District incumbent James Clyburn. According to FEC reports, Person has receipts totaling $620,979 with $569,079 coming from individuals and $51,900 coming from PACs. Just over $446,549 was reported being disbursed.

In the 2016 election cycle, Republican House candidates have received $518.4 million compared to $436.2 million received by Democrat candidates, according to FEC data dating Oct. 31. That is over $967 million raised by candidates – including $12.7 million raised by candidates of other parties.

Democrats dispersed $358.2 million, or 82.1% of the funds raised, in an attempt to whittle down the Republican majority in the House while Republicans spent $445.9 million, or 86% of the money raised, to maintain its majority. Republicans had a 30–seat majority in the House leading into the election.

On the Senate side, Democrats outraised Republicans by nearly $20 million. Democrats raised $276.1 million while Republicans Senate candidates have pulled in $256.3 million.

According to the FEC data, Democrats outraised Republicans, but Republicans have outspent their counterparts by just over $8 million. Republicans have spent $252.6 million, or close to 98% of the money raised as the party attempts to hold its slim majority. Democrats, on the other hand, have dispersed $244.1 million, or close to 88% of the funds received.

Presidential fundraising

In the race for president, South Carolinians gave generously to the Republican Party. Just over $5 million has been donated to Republican candidates while $2.5 million was donated to Democrats. So far, with one more reporting month – November – the donors gave $7.59 million in the presidential race compared to $10.4 million donated by state residents to candidates in the 2012 presidential election.

There is a little more revealing story when the data is broken down by candidate.

In South Carolina, Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton has received just over $2 million in donations while former Republican presidential candidate and current U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham received $1.4 million. Republican nominee Donald Trump was third in fundraising in the state with $1.2 million as of FEC filings through Sept. 30.

“You have to take into account that Trump did not do any serious fundraising,” Vinson said. “A bulk of the effort has been to the Republican National Committee and those who were not overly excited about Trump shifted their attention to the party.”

According to the FEC data, the ZIP code 294xx – Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown and Orangeburg counties –has raised $1.94 million for presidential candidates – the most of any in the state. The ZIP code 296xx – Abbeville, Anderson, Greenville, Oconee and Pickens counties– has donated the next highest amount at $1.6 million. In 292xx – Richland County – has the third–highest donation figure at $907,454.


Campaign finance

Here is a snapshot of campaign finance in select national races in South Carolina:


Candidate                                           Receipts              Disbursement                   Debt

Hillary Clinton–D                              $2,014,924           N/A                                        N/A

Donald Trump–R                              $1,284,198           N/A                                        N/A


U.S. House District 3

Candidate                                           Receipts              Disbursement                   Debt

Jeff Duncan–R*                                $554,344              $607,752                              $0

Hosea Cleveland–D                         $9,045                   $6,517                                   $0


U.S. House District 4

Candidate                                           Receipts              Disbursement                   Debt

Trey Gowdy–R*                                $1,504,985           $1,201,603                           $0

Christopher Fedalei–D                   $91,791                 $88,782                                 $0


U.S. House District 5

Candidate                                           Receipts              Disbursement                   Debt

Mick Mulvaney–R*                         $1,175,147           $866,580                              $88,600

Frances Person–D                            $620,979              $446,549                              $0


U.S. Senate

Candidate                                           Receipts              Disbursement                   Debt

Tim Scott–R*                                     $5,942,528           $3,999,064                           $0

Thomas Dixon–D                              $36,598                 $32,828                                 $0

William Bledsoe–L                           $2,180                   $1,657                                   $2,180


*–indicates incumbent

Note: Presidential figures only include donations from South Carolina donors and do not indicate expenditures or debt.

Source: Federal Election Commission filings as of Oct. 19


Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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