Annette Bosworth made a big splash when she raised $315,000 in the final quarter of 2013, an order of magnitude greater than her rivals Larry Rhoden and Stace Nelson, twice as much as Democrat Rich Weiland and more than half the total of frontrunner Mike Rounds.
With the second-tier candidates trying to stand out from the crowd and become the alternative to Rounds, a strong fundraising quarter is crucial.
But the manner in which Bosworth raised $315,000 is also very interesting.
First, Bosworth raised three-fourths of that money in small donations less than $200. Rounds, in contrast, raised 3.5 percent of his money from small donors. Rhoden raised around 8 percent that way. Nelson raised about one-third of his money in unitemized donations. So this is definitely striking.
Second, Bosworth got a lot of money from out of state. Her report isn’t up itemized digital form, so I spent a few minutes typing out her donations by state. Of $78,000 in itemized donations, just $6,900 were from South Dakota. That’s less than she got from Florida and Texas. Altogether she got donations from 36 different states,
Third, Bosworth took in a lot of money but owes even more. She raised $315,000 in the quarter, spent $94,000, and owes another $255,000. As Pat Powers noted, she actually owes more than she has in the bank.
Fourth, she spent a lot of money on Facebook advertising. I haven’t added it up, but there’s dozens of entries totaling thousands of dollars.
Fifth, she spent a ton on direct mail fundraising. More than $130,000 in expenses and debts, by my rough count, went to the firm Base Connect and an affiliated company operating out of the same office, Century Data Mailing Service. On top of that, she owes $76,000 to Consolidated Mailing Services, another direct mail company. Direct mail is famously one of the most expensive ways to fundraise, at least at first, though it can help build a list for future, more efficient, fundraising.
Finally, Bosworth is subscribing to some very controversial firms, particularly Base Connect. From Salon:
Formerly known as BMW Direct, Base Connect describes itself “a full-service creative agency for conservative candidates running at the national level.” For the past several election cycles, the firm’s M.O. has gone like this: find a longshot conservative candidate running against a well-established Democratic incumbent, then launch a national fundraising campaign by sending direct mail to a list of true-believing but small-time conservative donors around the country.
The catch is that as much 75 or 80 or even 95 percent of the money raised is paid back to Base Connect and its “partner” companies (which are based in the same suite in the same building just off K Street in Washington). GOP consultant Bill Pascoe dubbed this “subprime fundraising.” And Erick Erickson once said that candidates who use the firm are in danger of losing RedState’s endorsement, presumably because conservative donors’ money is going to a fundraising agency rather than actually helping the cause. Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) dropped all ties with Base Connect after Talking Points Memo reported in March he was paying the firm 75 percent in fundraising fees.
As Cory Heidelberger noted, Base Connect has promoted Bosworth on its Facebook page.
It’s hard to know exactly what to make of this, but it’s clear that much of the money Bosworth took in isn’t actually going to be useful for running her campaign. Instead, it’ll go right out the door as part of high fundraising fees.
Of course, if this helps Bosworth break out from the pack, it may all be worth it.