WATERLOO | Donors from more than 20 states contributed $500 or more apiece to the cause of electing a second Republican to the U.S. Senate from Iowa.
Those donations came in during the final quarter of last year and were included in the six candidates’ year-end financial reports. The fundraising totals already have been released an analyzed, but an in-depth look at the donors highlights another difference between the candidates.
While the Republican U.S. Senate candidates may have similar philosophies and political stances, their donor lists reveal different strategies to getting the nomination in the June 3 primary.
Most of the candidates are welcoming out-of-state dollars in an effort to be in the best position to take on the Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley in the general election. The seat is open after U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said last year that he would not seek a sixth term.
Republican candidate Joni Ernst, a Red Oak state senator, saw about 80 percent of her donations of $500 or greater coming from Iowans in the final quarter. Her third-quarter fundraising effort saw a nearly even split between Iowa and out-of state dollars, with about 43 percent coming from outside Iowa.
But within the out-of-state donors, Ernst has attracted attention from some high-profile activists.
Following Ernst’s attendance at a seminar put on by Charles and David Koch last year, she has attracted donors affiliated with the Koch brothers’ network of political connections.
Ernst received a scant $4,500 -- out of $202,744 raised -- from donors with affiliations with the right-leaning libertarian Koch brothers during the most recent filing. But she has previously gotten more than $20,000 from influential figures with ties to a meeting put on by the brothers.
The names of donors with ties to the Koch brothers’ network was made public earlier this month by left-wing magazine Mother Jones, which published an attendee list that was left behind after a recent conference. The brothers’ wealth from their petroleum industry company, Koch Industries, has allowed them to wield influence in the right-wing political realm.
Ernst’s donations during the final quarter from the affiliates include an office furniture company owner in Michigan, the founder of a nanotechnology laboratory in Texas and John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s International pizza chain.
Schnatter has been an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act, which Ernst regularly calls “Bruce Braley’s Obamacare,” and favors repealing the legislation.
Derek Flowers, a spokesman for Ernst’s campaign, said Ernst is an attractive candidate who is able to attract interest both within the state and outside it. He attributes her successful fundraising to the fact that she is a proven conservative and interest in electing the first female combat veteran to the U.S. Senate.
A press release announcing her fundraising totals for the year-end notes Ernst has been able to secure donations from individuals in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
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While Ernst is the only candidate attracting donors affiliated with the Koch brothers, she is not alone in getting large donations from out-of-state donors.
More than half of Republican candidate Mark Jacobs’ final quarter donations greater than $500 came from Texans. Texans who sent $500 or more also supplied nearly double the amount Jacobs received from Iowans sending $500 or greater.
After Iowa, Texas donors supplied the next greatest contribution to Iowa’s Senate candidates. But 90 percent of those donations went to Jacobs.
Alissa Ohl, a spokeswoman for Jacobs, said it will take the ability to raise money on a national scale to compete with the “liberal special interest” dollars that will fund Braley’s Democratic campaign. Jacobs raised $400,000 in the final quarter, more than the other candidates, though Ernst has more cash-on-hand.
Jacobs also donated to his own campaign, giving more than $320,000 in in-kind donations and another $200,000 in loans.
Jacobs, a former Houston-based energy executive, received thousands from fellow Texas-based energy executives. Despite his ties to the energy industry, Jacobs supports the renewable fuel standard.
Republican candidate Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney now in private practice in Des Moines, likewise received many of his donations from fellow attorneys. More than 40 percent of his donations of $500 or more came from out of state.
Whitaker trails Ernst in Jacobs in both his final quarter figures and his total cash on hand.
Republican candidate Sam Clovis, a professor in Sioux City, received less than half of his $70,000 in the final quarter from people who contributed $500 or more. About 70 percent of his donations of $500 or more came from Iowans, many from people who live near his northwest corner of the state.
Republican candidate Scott Schaben is the only Republican U.S. Senate candidate to get all of his $500 or greater donations in the fourth quarter from Iowans, though he only had four donations of $500 or more.
Republican candidate Paul Lunde filed a letter with the Federal Election Commission saying that he had “reached neither of the thresholds that would require” him to file a year-end report.
Despite the outside influence on the Republican Senate primary, more than half of the receipts of $500 or more were from Iowans. Of the 360 donors from 24 states and Washington, D.C., who gave $500 or more to the five candidates in the fourth quarter, 205 are Iowans.