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Who Does Keith Ellison Represent? (And Why Aren't Minnesotans Funding His Campaigns?)

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The FEC's Q1 2009 campaign finance data reveals several interesting facts about how Minnesota's U.S. Representatives fund their campaigns. Earlier in the week, Smart Politics documented that GOP Representative Michele Bachmann received the largest percentage of contributions from individuals and small donors among the state's U.S. House delegation, and that DFL Representatives Collin Peterson and James Oberstar received the largest percentage of contributions from PACs.

A new Smart Politics analysis of the FEC data reveals another eye-opening fact - DFLer Keith Ellison (MN-05) received more than 80 percent of his itemized individual campaign contributions from those living outside of the Gopher State. In fact, Ellison received 11 times a greater percentage of funds from out-of-state than DFL Representative Tim Walz (7.2 percent) and Republican Representative Erik Paulsen (7.6 percent) and more than four times that of Congresswoman Bachmann (18.7 percent).

Q1 2009 Out-of-State Itemized Individual Contributions to Minnesota U.S. Representatives

Rank
Representative
% Out of state
% Minnesota
1
Ellison
83.2
16.8
2
Oberstar
73.2
26.2
3
Peterson
53.5
46.5
4
Kline
29.6
70.4
5
McCollum
23.7
76.3
6
Bachmann
18.7
81.3
7
Paulsen
7.6
92.4
8
Walz
7.2
92.8
Note: FEC data compiled by Smart Politics.

Ellison is the only outlier from the table above, as all other rankings make intuitive sense. The longest-serving members of Congress (Oberstar and Peterson, who are also U.S. House Committee Chairs) have had time to develop numerous contacts across the country, and thus rank at the top in the percentage of funds raised outside of Minnesota. Those Representatives with the next highest terms of service in D.C. (DFLer Betty McCollum and GOPer John Kline) rank in the middle of the list, and those with the fewest terms of service in D.C. (Bachmann, DFLer Tim Walz, and GOPer Erik Paulsen) rank at the bottom.

But was Q1 2009 a fluke?

Since Ellison only raised just north of $26,000 in itemized individual contributions last quarter, perhaps this high percentage of funds raised outside of Minnesota is just a quarterly aberration.

To determine the answer to this question, Smart Politics analyzed the out-of-state versus in-state itemized individual contributions to Ellison's campaign for every quarter since he first began his candidacy for federal office at the beginning of 2006.

While Ellison only received about one-third of such contributions from out-of-state residents during his election campaign of 2006 (34.7 percent), that number skyrocketed as soon as he became the first Muslim ever elected to the U.S. House. Out-of-state itemized individual funds increased to 72.0 percent in 2007, 74.7 percent in 2008, and 83.2 percent for the first quarter of 2009.

Overall, Ellison has received at least two-thirds of such funding from outside the Gopher State in 7 of the last 9 quarters.

Quarterly Out-of-State vs. In-State Itemized Individual Campaign Contributions to Keith Ellison, 2006-2009

Period
% Out of state
% Minnesota
Q1 2009
83.2
16.8
Q4 2008
68.5
31.5
Q3 2008
76.3
23.7
Q2 2008
61.4
38.6
Q1 2008
87.2
12.8
Q4 2007
84.0
16.0
Q3 2007
83.5
16.5
Q2 2007
47.6
52.4
Q1 2007
67.5
32.5
Q4 2006
56.3
43.7
Q3 2006
25.0
75.0
Q2 2006
11.0
89.0
Q1 2006
14.5
85.5
Total
63.5
36.5
Note: FEC data compiled by Smart Politics.

To be clear, individual contributions are not a trivial part of Ellison's campaign fundraising strategy. The 2-term Congressman has received approximately three-fourths of his campaign funds from individuals (74.3 percent) since 2006, with just 25.5 percent coming from PACs and 0.2 percent contributed directly by himself.

Itemized individual contributions (which are normally those totaling more than $200), account for approximately three-fourths of Ellison's total individual contributions (73.0 percent), or nearly $1.3 million since 2006. Twenty-seven percent of such funds have come in the form of smaller (unitemized) donations during that span, or about $479K.

From where is Ellison receiving all of these out-of-state funds? Who is taking such an unusual interest in Minnesota's Congressman from the 5th District?

Since 2006, Ellison has received itemized funds from residents of 34 states plus the District of Columbia. Minnesotans have contributed to just over one-third of these funds, 36.5 percent. California residents have been the second largest funders of Ellison's campaigns, at 14.2 percent, followed by Florida (9.4 percent), Illinois (6.3 percent), Michigan (6.0 percent), and New Jersey (4.6 percent).

Itemized Individual Contributions to Keith Ellison by State, 2006-2009

#
State
2006
2007
2008
2009-1
Total
%
1
MN
$227,769
$84,032
$157,673
$4,400
$473,874
36.5
2
CA
$23,650
$38,200
$118,725
$3,250
$183,825
14.2
3
FL
$34,599
$65,406
$21,300
$500
$121,805
9.4
4
IL
$6,900
$17,764
$55,025
$2,300
$81,989
6.3
5
MI
$17,150
$9,150
$38,086
$13,250
$77,635
6.0
6
NJ
$2,850
$7,650
$49,523
$0
$60,023
4.6
7
NY
$300
$0
$55,200
$0
$55,500
4.3
8
TX
$1,750
$8,400
$34,721
$165
$45,036
3.5
9
VA
$12,500
$12,900
$13,195
$0
$38,595
3.0
10
MA
$4,500
$18,400
$2,000
$0
$24,900
1.9
11
DC
$6,155
$8,550
$4,250
$2,300
$21,255
1.6
12
OH
$1,000
$0
$20,250
$0
$21,250
1.6
13
MD
$2,000
$8,000
$5,750
$0
$15,750
1.2
14
WI
$500
$11,398
$1,550
$0
$13,448
1.0
15
WA
$2,000
$0
$10,600
$0
$12,600
1.0
16
OK
$0
$0
$12,000
$0
$12,000
0.9
17
NV
$1,300
$6,350
$2,100
$0
$9,750
0.8
18
IN
$0
$1,000
$4,250
$0
$5,250
0.4
19
WV
$0
$0
$2,350
$0
$2,350
0.2
20
AZ
$500
$300
$1,500
$0
$2,300
0.2
21
CO
$1,000
$0
$1,000
$0
$2,000
0.2
22
NC
$0
$0
$1,800
$0
$1,800
0.1
23
CT
$0
$500
$1,250
$0
$1,750
0.1
24
GA
$0
$500
$1,000
$0
$1,500
0.1
25
MO
$0
$250
$1,250
$0
$1,500
0.1
26
TN
$1,000
$500
$0
$0
$1,500
0.1
27
PA
$0
$0
$1,275
$0
$1,275
0.1
28
AL
$0
$0
$1,250
$0
$1,250
0.1
28
KS
$0
$1,000
$250
$0
$1,250
0.1
30
AR
$0
$0
$1,000
$0
$1,000
0.1
30
KY
$0
$0
$1,000
$0
$1,000
0.1
30
RI
$1,000
$0
$0
$0
$1,000
0.1
33
DE
$0
$0
$500
$0
$500
0.0
33
NM
$0
$0
$500
$0
$500
0.0
35
IA
$250
$0
$0
$0
$250
0.0
---
AK
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
HI
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
ID
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
LA
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
ME
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
MS
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
MT
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
NE
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
NH
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
ND
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
OR
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
SC
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
SD
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
UT
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
VT
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
---
WY
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
0.0
 
Total
$348,672
$300,249
$622,123
$26,165
$1,297,209
100.0
Note: FEC data compiled by Smart Politics.

However, since 2007, Minnesotans have only contributed just over one-quarter of Ellison's itemized individual campaign funds (25.9 percent). In fact, the Congressman has received more money from residents of California and Florida ($247,381) than from residents of his home state ($246,105) during this span.

This would not be so noteworthy if Ellison were receiving both a substantial amount of funds from Gopher State residents in addition to those received from other states - but that's not the case. Ellison was not among the leaders in the Minnesota U.S. House delegation in total funds raised from individuals in 2008, and was 7th in the state delegation in Q1 2009, ahead of only Collin Peterson.

And whereas Representative Bachmann's high-profile media appearances during the past year have coincided with an increase in fundraising for her in Minnesota, Ellison's Page 1 story in becoming the first Muslim elected to Congress has coincided with a surge in campaign contributions from out-of-state, particularly in states with some of the largest numbers of Muslim-American residents (e.g. California, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan).

One presumes Ellison, like any officeholder, gladly accepts large contributions from those in his home state, if so offered. But, for whatever reason, those contributions are not coming in at a rate Representative Ellison can find elsewhere. And, as a result, he is turning to communities in states like California, Florida, Illinois, and Michigan to substantially fund his campaigns.

All of this data raises some key questions. Are residents of Minnesota's 5th District aware of this stark funding imbalance to their Representative in the U.S. House? Why has Ellison been less than successful in soliciting campaign contributions from his constituents and residents statewide? And, most importantly, how does such a reliance on out-of-state funding affect, if at all, Ellison's ability to represent the interests of the residents of the 5th District?

Representative Ellison's reelection to D.C. by a 48.9-point margin last November indicates his constituents are either unaware of or untroubled by his receipt of such a large percentage of out-of-state funding, but are nonetheless quite content with his voting record and leadership on Capitol Hill.

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9 Comments


  • My contention with your analysis is this: Money does not equal votes. While I am a strong advocate for removing all money out of electoral politics, I think that in this case there is smoke but no fire for several reasons.

    1. Your analysis focuses on itemized contributions. These are from individual donors as opposed to PACs who represent corporate and single issue interests. These contributions are capped under campaign finance law, so we are not talking about influence peddling here.

    2. Since Congressman Ellison is the ONLY Muslim member of Congress and one of the few African Americans in Congress, I am sure that there are a multitude of individuals outside of the state of Minnesota who feel an affinity towards the congressman for one of these or other reasons. Arguably, it would be other similar if there were only one White Christian in Congress.

    3. It is a widely known fact that the Minnesota 5th is on of the safest Democratic districts in the state and is among the safest districts in the country. That's why the seat was so strongly contested within the Democratic Party when Congressman Sabo announced his intention to retire. For a Democrat it's practically a guaranteed seat for life. Seats that are safe for a party are hardly money magnets for local support, nor do they require a great deal of funds to defend.

    At the end of the day, what matters most are votes. As Former US House Speaker Tip O'Neil once said, "All politics is local." A politician can raise all the money they want from out of state individuals, but the voters will judge him on how well he represents their views and advocate for the issues that are important to them.

    When you're talking about safe partisan districts, quality of representation is the bottom line; not necessarily fundraising sources.

  • From OpenSecrets.org:

    "There may be no place like home but that's not where members of the House of Representatives have turned to raise enough cash to win their re-election races. According to a new study from MAPLight.org based on the Center for Responsive Politics's campaign contribution data, between 2005 and 2007, 97 percent of members of the House raised more than half of their funds from donors living outside of their districts. Nearly four out of every five dollars in campaign funds, or 79 percent of the total raised, were not from the residents the legislators represent on Capitol Hill. (This data includes contributions from political action committees and excludes contributions of less than $200, which are more likely to be in-district.)"

    Mr. Ostermeier: are the sources cited above giving us bad or misleading information? Or did you simply fail to do the research which could have put Ellison's contribution sources in the context of what appears a very typical pattern?

    If the information above is true, wouldn't it merit at least a passing mention in your piece?

    I don't like outsiders meddling with our elections any more than you do, but for different reasons than you suggest in your piece. This public policy issue is a broader problem than a specific instance in one district.

    In particular, to focus on the Representative's religion is out of bounds, IMO.

    What about Rep. Oberstar? Why didn't you mention him for his predominant out of state contributions? Or does your view imply that it's OK if people out of state want to express their support for Oberstar due to his important committee chairmanship, yet somehow not OK if out of state Muslims want to support the only Muslim in Congress?

  • Mr. Titterud -- you have overlooked some key facts, and fail to recognize the precise FEC data on which my analysis is based. It's not a question of the MAPLight.org data being "bad" or "misleading,' rather, it's a matter of comparing apples to oranges (or, at least green apples to red apples).

    First, the quote you attribute to OpenSecrets refers to funds raised outside of one’s DISTRICT. My examination is on in-state vs. out-of-state funds. That actually makes my numbers more conservative than not, as I am grouping together all itemized individual funds raised by Ellison in the entire state of Minnesota – including those raised outside of the 5th District.

    Secondly, the MAPLight.org data cited refers to funds raised by individuals + PACs (plus, I assume, Political Party Committees). My analysis focuses on the large, itemized funds contributed by INDIVIDUALS only. As such, when one examines funds donated by PACs, this is going to inflate the numbers you cite in terms of the percentage of members of Congress who receive the majority funds outside of their district (most PACs are located elsewhere). In other words, the percentage of Ellison's funds received out of state would be even higher if I had included PACs.

    > Or did you simply fail to do the research which could have
    > put Ellison's contribution sources in the context of what
    > appears a very typical pattern?

    Read the first table on this post. It documents the funds raised in Q1 2009 for all Minnesota members of the U.S. House. That is putting Ellison's numbers in context. And it shows Ellison is FAR outpacing most of his MN colleagues, particularly those with just a few terms of service in D.C.

    > In particular, to focus on the Representative's religion is out
    > of bounds, IMO.

    To what extent is the data and analysis presented focused on Ellison’s religion? Was that the focus? Or was it the fact the funds are coming from out of state?

    > What about Rep. Oberstar? Why didn't you mention him for
    > his predominant out of state contributions? Or does your
    > view imply that it's OK if people out of state want to express
    > their support for Oberstar due to his important committee
    > chairmanship, yet somehow not OK if out of state Muslims
    > want to support the only Muslim in Congress?

    Well, Oberstar's information is listed in the table, so it is therefore mentioned in this post. The focus of this post was Ellison (just as the posts from earlier in the week were on Rep. Bachmann).

    But, more to the point, there are no normative judgments being made per se. The point of this analysis is to draw attention to outliers in the data – and Elllison is an outlier in terms of his fundraising among other Minnesota members of the U.S. House, particularly those with similar lengths of service in D.C. Residents of the 5th District are the ones who have to decide if this fundraising is troublesome - and, as I acknowledge in my concluding paragraph, they seem to be quite satisfied with Rep. Ellison's service in D.C.


  • I do think Rep. Ellison's religion is relevant to his fund-raising — but only because he is the first Muslim in Congress.

    A safe district and a one-of-kind resume explain the data you present pretty well. Your headline, though, is MDE-worthy.

  • Eric,

    I'll take your silence on my points as acquiescence that my points were sound and you agree that your analysis is ill conceived in light of my arguments.

  • > I'll take your silence on my points as acquiescence that my
    > points were sound and you agree that your analysis is ill
    > conceived in light of my arguments.

    Noel - you raise good points, though I do not see how many of them are in conflict to the data and analysis presented above.

    The data I've presented certainly suggests your second point is in play, though my analysis falls short of explicitly connecting those dots, because this is not an analysis about the Congressman's religion.

    Regarding your third point, there is no doubt Ellison's district is one of the safest in the country. Though, if that's the case, how do you explain the apparent need for him to coordinate fundraisers across the country in several different states, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars? Your point is actually suggesting there is no need for him to so fundraise to win reelection. So, if that is the case, then why do you think he makes such an effort?

    Regarding your first point - PACs - I am not going to suggest that the contributions of an individual have more of a chance to 'influence' an officeholder than those from a PAC. But, do you see any commonalities across the individuals giving to Ellison that suggest a collectivity of interests might be in play? There is nothing pernicious about raising this question; this post merely observes that Ellison's fundraising tactics are an outlier among the state's delegation, particularly given his relatively short term of service in D.C.

    In general, the reason I am not ceding more ground to you here is that you have not shown how any of the analysis in this blog post is "ill conceived" as you suggest. Your comments suggest that you are not in the least bit surprised that Ellison's contributions are so heavily titled from out-of-state. At worst, then, what you are suggesting is that this posts states the obvious, but is not ill-conceived. Although, I would be interested in your view as to why you think other Minnesotans with some national renown, such as Congresswoman Bachmann, are not raising the kind of funds from out-of-state that Ellison is securing.

  • Mr. Ostermeier: The Maplight.org data at http://www.maplight.info/remotecontrol08/RemoteControl08Report.pdf includes not only contributions in/out of district but also in/out of state.

    Their methodology, in part: “This study included all contributions from January 2005 through December 2007, excluding individual contributions of less than $200 and contributions from political parties, other candidates, and leadership PACs. We used campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics, whose data is based on reports that candidates and contributors are required to file with the Federal Elections Commission.”

    Your data selection differs from Maplight’s more comprehensive study, which spans about 3 years for all the MN Representatives, and it does indeed include PAC money, but not the political parties’ contributions. And of course out-of-district and out-of-state do not compare directly.

    So why not take a look at both out-of-state and out-of-district contributions for all the MN Reps according to the study’s parameters outlined above, 2005 – 2007? I’ve quoted their numbers below, leaving out Ramstad.

    In their table 3 in that document, the overall out-of-state donations % for MN Reps are:

    87.1% Oberstar
    86.1% Peterson
    64.9% Ellison
    59.2% McCollum
    48.1% Walz
    43.2% Bachmann
    43.9% Kline

    Same Reps, out-of-district donations %:

    97.0 % Oberstar
    92.1 % Peterson
    86.7 % Bachmann
    85.6 % Kline
    85.4 % McCollum
    84.1 % Walz
    77.7 % Ellison

    Looking at these figures, Ellison’s data does not jump off the page as an “eye-opener” or “outlier”. They seem all too typical. Any reasonable reading of this data would tell you that the entire delegation has a very significant reliance on out-of-state money over time.

  • A queer thing about the data is that it leaves out contributions under $200. I realize these aren't reported and are not readily available, but I suspect that this is a major source of funding for some candidates. I know my contribution to Ellison wasn't counted, and I'm in his district. Can it be assumed that total campaign funding minus reported contributions equals small donations, and thereby a but a math could work out the amount?

  • > Can it be assumed that total campaign funding minus
    > reported contributions equals small donations, and thereby a
    > but a math could work out the amount?

    That's basically correct. In the FEC data, "unitemized" donations are listed cumulatively and they are equal to the total individual contributions minus the itemized individual contributions.

    I reported on the percentage of all MN U.S. Representatives' (including Ellison's) Q1 2009 small vs. large contributions here:

    http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cspg/smartpolitics/2009/04/why_the_bachmann_revolution_is.php

    For the 3+ year period under analysis, 27 percent of Ellison's total individual contributions were from small donors (unitemized). That's about $480,000 since 2006. I report this number in the post above at the end of the 2nd paragraph below the second table.

  • Leave a comment


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