Campaign finance reports provide a look behind the curtain

197

Candidates running for city council must report their contributions and expenses just like most other election campaigns in the United States. For city races, the first report was due on Thursday, April 4, and all four candidates filed on time with the city secretary. These reports covered the period from January through the end of March. We have obtained copies of each report and have compiled some of the data into readable charts, shown below.

One of the key takeaways is this… Campaigns are expensive, and they’re getting more expensive every year. Through the last week in March, the candidates have spent a combined $18,000, and there is still a month to go.

One other note before the data… The Kerrville Daily Times reported on the filings, but made an error on at least one critical number: the amount raised by candidate Kim Clarkson. The KDT reported that Kim raised $12,219.01, but in fact, that’s the amount raised by Gary Cochrane. Clarkson actually raised $15,741.51.

Highlighting an error on the Kerrville Daily Times story published on April 6, 2019. The highlighted number should read: “$15,741.51”

Money Raised

The candidates raised a combined $36,545 through the last week in March, according to the reports. Around 161 donations were accepted, for an average contribution of $227.

Clarkson raised the most money during this period, ringing up $15,741.51 in total political contributions (including in-kind donations).

Comparison of contributions raised by City Council candidates through March 25, 2019.

A list of individual donors was published in the Kerrville Daily Times article, and those individual donors can also be viewed in the full reports, linked at the bottom of this page.

Money Spent

Candidates spent a combined $18k on expenses so far. The bulk of the spending has been on signage and promotional merchandise (about 62%). The remainder is split between printing, newspaper ads, mailings, and other miscellaneous expenses (related to event spending and campaign supplies).

A comparison of expenses as reported by each campaign through the end of March.

Compared to 2017

Some of these figures are unremarkable when looked at in a vacuum, but when compared to the spending levels the last time these two places were up for grabs, the numbers are more surprising. In 2017 there was only one contested race, between incumbent Stephen Fine and challenger Vincent Voelkel (Voelkel won).

By this filing period in 2017, Voelkel had raised $2,975 while Fine raised $7,623, for a total of $10,598. Compare that with $36,545 raised during the same period this year! Even when compared on an average basis between the number of competitive candidates in the race, the numbers are staggering. See the chart below for the comparison. This chart shows the averages per candidate in 2017 and 2019. As you can see, the average amount raised has increased by 72% and the average expenses have increased 80% from the same race in 2017.

Please note that the averages are compared instead of the totals because there was only one competitive race in 2017, while there are two in 2019.

Takeaways & Commentary

  • Campaigns are more expensive now than ever before.
  • Candidates are raising large sums of money to support their campaigns.
  • Clarkson and Cochrane are leaders in the fundraising contest, and also have the greatest number of individual contributors.
  • Candidates spend most of their money in the first few months on signage and printing costs.
  • We expect the costs to shift more toward newspaper advertising for the next finance period leading up to election day.

Sources & Citations

Don’t forget! Early voting begins on April 22 and Election Day is May 4. All voters that reside within the city limits get to vote for both places. See you at the ballot box!

Authored by Aaron Yates, founder of Kerrville United