Without a doubt, money has polluted our politics to the point of being obscene.1 Most candidates accept contributions from any and everywhere, and voters are generally of the belief that politicians are beholden to those who finance their campaigns. Some candidates refuse to accept PAC money. Others, not so much.
Generally speaking, however, conventional wisdom says that the amount of money a candidate can raise from the voters in the district they hope to represent is generally a strong indicator of the support that candidate has from people in the district. And that support from within the district, one assumes, will translate (usually) to votes in the legislature that reflect the interests of the district.
But…what if nobody in the district actually contributed to the campaign? If nobody in the district backs the candidate financially and he wins, where do you think that legislator will put his loyalty when it comes time to make a tough vote?
No legislator could possibly think they could win an election with no donations from the people in the district, right?2
Though the tabulations are still ongoing in the BHR Data Analysis and Operations Center, there’s not just one legislator who has almost no financial support from anyone in his district, there are a number of them. While the quest continues this week to find the elusive zero in-district donors candidate, we will highlight some of the most pathetic ones we have come across so far in this series.
According to the US Census Bureau, Arkansas House District 21 has an estimated population (2016) of 28,199 people, of which 21,952 are 18 or older, which means they are potential voters. It is also the second largest geographic district in Arkansas. It takes in parts of Crawford, Garland, Perry, Polk, Scott, Sebastian, and Yell Counties. The incumbent representative is Marcus Richmond (R) and he is running for reelection. Richmond is the House Majority Leader, so he’s got some pull with the state GOP. According to Richmond’s latest CC&E3 report, he has $59,371.75 in his campaign account, of which $40,557.95 is money he personally loaned his campaign.4 Richmond has raised $27,800 so far this cycle, which is a respectable amount for a state rep race.
Care to guess how much of that $27,800 was from people in his district?
A whopping $1,100 (4%)!
The source of the $1,100 is where this story takes a really depressing turn. Of 21,952 people of voting age in the district, THREE (3) gave to his campaign, and it is a safe bet they felt obligated to make those contributions.
Only three people??? Surely you can’t be serious!5 His mother in law contributed $500, as did his father-in-law. The other $100 came from a person who works for him.
Here is a picture of what this sadness looks like:
It’s only one dot with a 3 in it because his employee lives so close to Richmond’s mother and father-in-law that it merges into one dot at this scale.
The state party hasn’t even contributed to this guy’s campaign – and he is the house majority leader!
Where did all that money he got come from you ask? A mere 81% of all the money he has raised came from–wait for it–PACs. A GOP candidate funded almost entirely by special interest and corporate money? Shocker, right?6
Can 21,949 people be wrong? Is it really not worth donating a dime to this guy?
Maybe not. After all, since being in office, Richmond has pushed and supported bills that would have ended the private option entirely. He has placed his business interests ahead of doing what is right.7 He has routinely supported absolutely anything that keeps straight, white, Christian men armed and subjugates every other group, and he constantly makes misogynistic, transphobic, and homophobic jokes on social media.
From that perspective, it almost makes sense that no one in his district would want to give him any money.8 And Richmond doesn’t care–he’ll happily ride that PAC-money train and hope the R by his name will get him re-elected.
The district has already decided that Richmond is not worth donating to; maybe eventually they will decide he’s not worth voting for either.
Programming note: If you think maybe the lack of financial support is due to his being in an obscenely large rural district, tune in to Game of Donors Monday when take a look at a tiny urban district.
And that’s without even getting into money paid by Republicans to porn stars!↩
Spoiler alert – please see title of this post.↩
Campaign Contribution and Expenditure↩
Big loans like this will be a topic for a different series.↩
I’m serious. And stop calling me Shirley.↩
Narrator voice: It was not, in fact, a shocker.↩
More coming on that soon.↩
There’s also the fact that he arguably does not actually live in his district. That could be keeping donors away, too.↩