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Why Campaign Contributions by Homemakers to MN U.S. Representatives Are Not Part of a 'Shell Game'

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One of the notable findings from yesterday's Smart Politics research that documented the occupational profile of those individuals giving large donations to the campaigns of Minnesota's U.S. Representatives was that nearly 95 percent of homemakers contributed to the three Republican members of the Gopher State delegation.

Such contributions totaled more than $50,000 - good for the fourth largest amount out of a list of 28 occupations, behind only business owners and executives, retirees, and physicians and dentists. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and freshman Representative Erik Paulsen each raised $17,500 from this group to set the pace.

After this research was posted, several (left-leaning) media outlets and bloggers articulated skepticism that such an overwhelming percentage of funds donated by homemakers would have such a drastic partisan tilt. In short, doubt was expressed that such (female) homemakers, on their own volition, would be so universally supportive of Republican lawmakers, nor would they have the funds to so donate independently.

In a comment posted on-site at Smart Politics, MN Progressive Project's Grace Kelly posited:

"I would also note that one should check who the homemakers are married to or who the parents are. The analysis is misleading if there is a shell game going on, which based on a few of my researches, there is!"

The "shell game" to which Kelly refers would take shape thusly: a (male) contributor reaches his maximum level of campaign contributions to a candidate for a particular election cycle ($4,800), and subsequently 'funnels' more donations to the candidate, but this time in the name of his (female) spouse - enabling him to donate another $4,800. (Note: technically, the other member of the household could be a relation, as Kelly states, but the likelihood is that almost all such instances involve spouses).

Another Minnesota journalist from a left-leaning publication contacted Smart Politics via e-mail and expressed similar doubts about what the numbers really mean, raising the issue of such "double-donations":

"About homemakers, would it be worth seeing how many pair up with other donors at the same address? That seems like one job category, and there may be others, in which the giving might be less reflective of candidate or party identification and have more to do with how someone else in the household is directing political donations. I'm sure I am being sexist in my presumption that some homemaker donations are really double-donations from a spouse (usually a man) with a paying job (say, business owner) in the same household. It's an impression I get from scanning FEC filings ... no idea if it would bear up to statistical, sociological or gender-bias scrutiny."

Prompted by these inquiries, Smart Politics honed in on the nearly four dozen contributions made by homemakers during the second quarter of 2009 to Minnesota's U.S. House delegation, to determine to what extent the FEC filings suggest these contributions are being made independently of contributions from other members of their household - namely, male spouses.

As it turns out, 81 percent of the homemakers who made contributions in the last quarter to Minnesota's U.S. Representatives (38 of 47) did so without any other contributions coming from their household that quarter. These 47 homemakers made a total of of 59 contributions during the three-month period, of which 47 contributions (80 percent) were made without any donations coming from another member of that particular household.

Now, it is true that the sum contributions made by the nine homemakers who donated along with their spouses totaled a disproportionately higher 40 percent of all funds raised from all homemakers ($20,500), with 60 percent coming from the 38 homemakers without spousal contributions ($30,315).

However, even for this subset of nine homemakers, there is not persuasive evidence that such contributions are really "shell game" donations from (male) spouses as the left-leaning media writers suggest.

The FEC data shows that for the nine spouses of homemakers in question, only three had contributed the maximum $4,800 for the election cycle. In other words, of the 47 homemakers who in total contributed in excess of $50,000 last quarter, only 3 were married to individuals who had maxed out their contributions to the candidates they were supporting.

One spouse had only contributed $500 to the candidate to date, two had donated $1,000, one had contributed $2,400, one had contributed $4,200, and another had donated $4,600.

Moreover, such spousal contributions did not come overwhelmingly from business owners or executives: $9,900 of the $20,500 raised came from spouses who were retired, in sales, or self-employed. A total of $10,600 came from business owners, CEOs, or other executive officers in the business world. Additionally, as documented yesterday, 39.5 percent of funds donated by business owners and executives went to DFL Representatives.

Smart Politics also examined the target of such "dual" spousal contributions and found only a slightly larger amount donated to GOP candidates. Thirty one percent of contributions by homemakers to DFL candidates came from those whose spouse also contributed to the candidate this quarter ($1,000 of $3,215). On the Republican side, 41 percent of such donations came from homemakers with a spouse who also made a contribution this quarter to the candidate in question ($19,500 of $47,600).

In sum, to the extent one quarter's campaign contributions is a telling indicator, there is little evidence to suggest that the contributions made by homemakers to Minnesota's U.S. representatives are anything else. Just as the DFL candidates this quarter benefited inordinately from the donations made by some professions (e.g. 98 percent of donations from professors went to DFLers), Republican candidates benefited to the tune of 94 percent of funds donated by homemakers.

The FEC data certainly does not warrant singling out (female) homemakers as being either inordinately influenced by their (male) spouses or being used as part of a 'shell game' to funnel extra money to Republican candidates.

The explanation may simply be one of policy agreement.

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Previous post: Who Gives? An Occupational Profile of Large Donor Contributions to the MN US House Delegation
Next post: Republican Party ID Matches Democrats for First Time in Minnesota Since October 2005


  • As one of those housewives I can tell you that the bottom line reason that the donation is in my name is privacy- although I'm certainly giving that up now. Also, the women I know who donate this way are often times more politcally active then their husband's are...Nancy Pelosi was a housewife too.

    The fact that liberal bloggers would pick this part of your piece apart is enlightening.

    As a conservative blogger, I found it interesting that your piece ended with the fact that the vast majority of large donations from actual Minnesota residents go to 3 Republicans, without pointing out the if/then truth that the 5 Democrats don't get that money- and have to rely on larger donors outside of Minnesota. Why is that? Why can't they raise larger donor money at home? Because they don't represent the interests of larger donors in Minnesota.

    Although you've reviewed that in the past with Ellison, it would have been nice to see the same breakdowns for the entire MN Dem delegation.

    The piece was a breakdown by occupation, but concluded

    "Overall, Kline, Bachmann, and Paulsen raised 75.1 percent of all large donor contributions from Minnesota residents to its eight U.S. Representatives last quarter."

  • > I found it interesting that your piece ended with the fact that
    > the vast majority of large donations from actual Minnesota
    > residents go to 3 Republicans, without pointing out the
    > if/then truth that the 5 Democrats don't get that money- and
    > have to rely on larger donors outside of Minnesota. Why is
    > that? Why can't they raise larger donor money at home?
    > Because they don't represent the interests of larger donors
    > in Minnesota.

    It's also the case that the 3 GOP U.S. Representatives also raise significantly more money from SMALL donors than the 5 DFLers.

    In Q2 2009, Kline, Bachmann, and Paulsen raised $148,253 in small (unitemized) contributions, while Oberstar, Peterson, Walz, Ellison, and McCollum collectively raised less than half that amount - just $69,333.

    As these are unitemized funds, it is impossible to know from the FEC reports as to what percentage are coming from in-state and out of state among small donations.

  • Thank you for that information. So big money/small money the GOP wins with individual donors.

    Oh and for "Grace Kelly" who wonders who the "parents are" of these GOP housewives-- my mother is a retired social worker and my father is an independent realtor. They're both on a fixed income.

    For the record, former housewife Nancy Pelosi's dad was a U.S. Congressman and her family's net worth is $19 Million.

  • I cannot believe this is true!

  • I cannot believe this is true!

  • Leave a comment

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