GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS


Show Me the Money! The 2014 Campaign Finance Summary

Last year’s campaign in Rhode Island was certainly historic, and new research sheds light on some key insights. As we have done at New Harbor Group in previous election cycles, we put this summer’s intern team of 

Nathan McGuire (Boston College, 2016), Kate Mancosh (Furman University, 2017) and Matthew Romano (Boston College, 2018) to work finding the answers to some key questions.  Specifically:  

How much did it cost in 2014 to win a seat in the Rhode Island General Assembly, and;

Using campaign contributions as a gauge, how much impact does the business community have on getting candidates elected to office in Rhode Island?

Both surveys are available online - here are some highlights:

Historically, the leadership of both chambers raises and spends the most money, which proved to be the case again in 2014. The Speaker of the House raised $218,505 and spent $145,522.  The Senate President raised $181,701, an increase of $60,000 from 2012.  She spent $139,597, or $40,000 more than she spent in 2012.

The typical winner in either chamber spent significantly less than the leaders, however. In the Senate the median winner spent $18,905, down about $1,600 from 2012.  The median House winner spent $12,329, only about $600 less than 2012. 

This decline in median spending by winners in both chambers reflects the fact that combined spending by all Assembly candidates was just over $2.8 million, down from nearly $3.3 million in 2012.

A large amount of legislative races were relative bargains. For instance, in the House, 30 of 75 members spent less than $10,000 to get elected, with 15 spending less than $5,000. Meanwhile, 10 of 38 Senators spent less than $10,000 to get elected, despite running in districts with twice as many voters as their House counterparts. More than half of the Senate, or 22 Senators, spent less than $20,000 on their winning campaigns.

To read this survey and learn more, click here

Rhode Island Business Community

The business survey took a look at the campaign activities of the 253 people who made up the governing bodies of the state’s four largest chambers of commerce and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council. Here are some highlights of that survey:

The group of 253 business people combined to contribute just over $262,000 to candidates for state and local office in 2014, a significant increase over 2012’s $147,000. This is correlates with a higher number of competitive races for statewide office last year, which likely created increased interest in the business community. 

The Numbers: 

  • Still, nearly half of the group’s members - 45% - made no record-able contributions to candidates at the state and local level in 2014. 
  • In fact, the Top 26 contributors, or just over 10% of the business leaders, made a majority of the contributions.
  • Of the $2.37 million raised by all candidates for the General Assembly in 2014, only 1.05% of that amount came from the 253 business leaders. More than half of that amount was contributed to the Assembly leadership. 
  • The 75 successful candidates for the R.I. House of Representatives spent $1.338 million on their campaigns in 2014, and raised $1.436 million.
  • The 32 unsuccessful candidates for the R.I. House of Representatives (five less than 2012) spent $404,000 on their campaigns in 2014, and raised $259,000.
  • The 38 successful candidates for the R.I. State Senate spent $910,000 on their campaigns in 2014, and raised $912,000.
  • The 19 unsuccessful candidates for the R.I. State Senate (down from 41 in 2012) spent $166,000 on their campaigns in 2014, and raised $129,000.

It’s important to note that state law does not require the names of donors who contribute $100 or less to be listed on a candidate’s campaign finance report, although many candidates list all their donors. Therefore, contributions at that level might not be included in the public record and would not be recorded in the survey.

To read this survey and learn more, click here.