The Spin Machine

John Fritze of the Sun had a weekend article about the intense pressure to get top line numbers for congressional and Senate candidates before the reports come out, and the lengths to which some candidates will go to spin those numbers.

More than a dozen congressional candidates told the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday how much money they raised in the second quarter — highly anticipated figures for political observers trying to gauge the strength of the different campaigns.

But the numbers that candidates file with the government, as required by federal law, sometimes tell a different story than what political aides publicize in advance.

Former Prince George’s County Councilwoman Ingrid Turner, a Democrat running in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, distributed a press release Tuesday claiming her campaign “raised” more than $260,000. The release went on to note that 75 percent of the donations were $100 or less, “showing the strong grassroots effort of the Turner campaign.”

Omitted from Turner’s release was any mention of the $220,000 loan the candidate had made to herself, representing 84 percent of her total haul.
In an interview Friday, Turner said her campaign didn’t intend to inflate her fundraising position. She said her own money spends just as effectively on campaign expenses as money from donors.
“It’s important that I’m putting skin in the game,” Turner said.

Turner was the only one who spun the numbers so hard in this fashion. I didn’t have to deal with it because by the time I saw her number, Fritze and others had already revealed the extent of Turner’s self-funding.

Then there’s the omissions, and the Friday night new dumps attempting to hide bad data. 

Some candidates leave out key context when previewing numbers: Rep. Donna F. Edwards, who is running for Senate, declined to state how much cash she has on hand. Her FEC report later showed that number to be just under $419,000. Her opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, whose report has not yet posted, is expected to have $3.5 million on hand.

Others, particularly those whose fundraising is not as strong as expected, release their numbers at unusual times. Edwards disclosed her latest on a federal holiday. Former Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who is running in the 4th District, announced he had raised $122,000 at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

Still others lump in multiple quarters when announcing their fundraising. I don’t have a problem with this, as long as it’s clearly disclosed in the press release. I reported all the data I received in the form the candidates set out. I would then provide the context that might have been missing from the spin. I don’t mind having to think a little, so long as I’m not bring outright lied to. Ingrid Turner claiming she “raised” $260,000 when $220k was a loan, that’s the one example that I think crossed the line. The rest was pure spin, and I’m happy to cut through that and give the full context.