Theresa Greenfield is a Democrat running for U.S. Senate and appears ahead in the money game.
She got positive press after third quarter fundraising numbers were released. She raised $1.1 million in Q3 compared to Joni Ernst who raised less than $1 million. Ernst had $4 million on hand.
Greenfield was bullish, saying to The Hill, “It’s clear that the momentum and energy is on our side to flip this Senate seat, and I’m so proud of what our grassroots campaign has already been able to accomplish to lay the groundwork to win this race next year.”
Not so fast.
Campaign money is not the only money in the 2020 elections. Greenfield’s campaign eschews donations from corporate political action committees and secured 92 percent of donations at $100 or less. These are positive things. Even so, millions of dollars will be spent on this election by both major parties, political action committees, and others. Not all of it will be from donations that meet a candidate’s criteria, because legally, the campaign can’t coordinate activities with outside groups. The Democrat will benefit from big money spending regardless of how donations to their campaigns are filtered. A significant source of money, the DSCC, has backed Theresa Greenfield to take on Ernst. There will be others.
Underlying the last paragraph is a notion that in 2020 the Iowa U.S. Senate election will be a fair fight. It won’t. Brian Slodyko of Associated Press posted a story yesterday titled “‘Dark money’ ties raise questions for GOP Sen. Ernst of Iowa.” The author opens,
An outside group founded by top political aides to Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with the Iowa Republican to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.
As we’ve seen in the results of the Russia and Ukraine investigations of the president and his campaigns, Republicans appear to be a lawless bunch. Ernst has repeatedly demonstrated there is little daylight between the president and her. What you see is what you get.
After hearing three Democratic senate candidates speak at Iowa events and taking a phone call from a fourth, I found each to have positive qualities. In this race money matters as much as any other aspect of a campaign. Sure we’d like to overturn Citizen’s United in an effort to take money out of politics. Public financing of campaigns might also be good. Democrats have to win elections under the current rules before there is an opportunity to change campaign financing laws. Or we could break the law as Ernst and her cadre of close supporters may have done. Democrats have become the party of law and order and I don’t see Greenfield or the others breaking the law.
We want and need to flip the U.S. Senate to a Democratic majority so if our presidential candidate wins, they have a chance to govern. Republicans want to hold this seat for similar reasons. With 33 U.S. Senate seats on the ballot, there are enough to flip control, but only so many competitive races in which big money could make a difference. The Iowa seat is one of them.
Each of the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate has asserted they are best to unseat Joni Ernst. Which is accurate? Answering this question assumes playing by rules of logic that simply aren’t being used by Republican and right wing Ernst supporters.
A winning quarter of fundraising may not be enough to stand down the challenges of the influence of third party money in our elections. It is a positive start, but only part of the picture.