Insider Advantage: Why we’ll wait to hear from Congressmen on 2014 Senate race


Insider Advantage: Why we’ll wait to hear from Congressmen on 2014 Senate race

Originally published at on March 4, 2013

Once Paul Broun announced his run for the United States Senate in 2014, the anticipated thumps of other shoes falling never materialized, as Broun’s Congressional colleagues play the waiting game to announce their intentions for 2014.

Congressman Tom Price recently said that he isn’t likely to announce his intentions until May or later, but the rest of his statement contained a kernel of what may be motivating Congressmen to postpone their official announcements for 2014.

Price noted at the time that he had raised $300,000 in the previous two weeks for his reelection campaign. Federal campaign finance law allows incumbent Congressmen to raise money for their reelection for as long as they are “actively seeking” the office. Once they are no longer actively seeking reelection they can’t continue raising money for that race.

Despite chatter about Congressman Phil Gingrey having decided to run for Senate, the official word is that he’s still considering it, which of course allows him to continue raising money for his reelection.

And in Washington, where much of an incumbent’s fundraising comes from PACs and politically-astute donors, a donation to a Congressional reelection is considered a safe bet, and is an easier sale to make.

Additionally, delaying an announcement allows potential competitors to collect donations from donors who might have to choose one or the other if it became apparent that the candidates would be running against each other.

For Price and Gingrey, donors interested in healthcare policy and tort reform might support both candidates for reelection to Congress, but faced with having to choose a favorite in a Senate campaign, they might abstain altogether.

However, once a Congressman becomes a Senate candidate, he can turn all of his reelection campaign funds over to the Senate campaign, subject to the limitation that no individual can give more than $2600 total to a candidate, regardless of which campaign the checks were originally written to.

Under Georgia state law, there is no such incentive for a state or local official to delay an announcement as transfers from a campaign for one office to another are prohibited. There is, however, a powerful disincentive to announcing during the legislative session, as it may alienate leadership if they consider the legislator-turned-candidate to be distracted. Legislators considering an upgrade also will wish to pass legislation this session that they can trumpet in their next campaign, and so must keep their attention focused on their current job.

But once we begin to hear announcements from top-tier candidates seeking election to the United State Senate, we can expect the rest of the dominos to fall quickly.

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