If you’re on Rep. Kurt Bills’ mailing list, you’ve probably received a few e-mails that say U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Democrat Bills is looking to unseat this fall, collects a lot of money from special interests.
“Amy Klobuchar and the Democrats think that people like you are a ‘special interest,'” said one recent fundraising plea. “That’s rich, coming from someone who is in the top 5% of special interest donations in Washington DC!”
This election cycle, Klobuchar has been raising a sizeable amount of campaign money from political action committees and lobbyists. But whether she’s in the top 5 percent depends a lot on who she’s compared to.
Bills campaign manager Mike Osskopp said the talking point came from another Twin Cities-area journalist, but couldn’t provide more information to back up the claim or say who Klobuchar was compared to. Osskopp said only that Klobuchar raises a good deal of money from “lawyers, lobbyists and Wall Street firms.”
OpenSecrets.org, a website that tracks money in politics, ranks lawmakers on how much they make from political action committees (PACs), lobbyists, and lawyers, among other interests.
When compared to other sitting Senators, Klobuchar is not in the top 5 percent when it comes to money from PACs, lawyers or lobbyists this election cycle. (OpenSecrets doesn’t single out “Wall Street firms” in their data, but even when it comes to cash from the finance, insurance and real estate industries, Klobuchar isn’t at the top of the list, either.)
That’s not to say that Klobuchar isn’t among the top fundraisers in the Senate. For instance, she’s collected $154,175 so far this election cycle from lobbyists, putting her in the top 15 percent of Senators.
That’s because Klobuchar is running for office this year, so she’s automatically raising more than her peers. For instance, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid ranked first among Senators collecting money from lobbyists during the 2010 election cycle because he was running for office, while Klobuchar was ranked 40th. Now, Reid ranks 31st as he sits this election cycle out.
And when compared only to incumbent Senators running for office this year, Klobuchar sinks to the bottom of the list of lobbyist contributions.
Things change when Klobuchar is compared to money made from PACs, lobbyists and lawyers by all sitting Senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In that case, she is in the top 5 percent.
But most House members, who run for re-election every two years, raise less cash because they represent smaller districts that typically require less advertising and less travel. As a result, it’s an unfair apples-to-oranges comparison.
When she’s compared to all Senate and House members, it’s true that Klobuchar is in the top 5 percent of lawmakers collecting donations from a range of special interests.
But Bills’ claim comes with too many caveats. First, his campaign couldn’t provide specific sources for its statement. Further, it’s unfair to compare Klobuchar’s Senate fundraising to that of candidates for the U.S. House; congressional races focus on a smaller area and typically require less advertising than statewide races, so House members don’t have to raise nearly as much money as Senators running for re-election.
And though Klobuchar is among the top fundraisers in the Senate this election cycle, it’s because she’s running for office. If she wins again, expect her fundraising to dwindle significantly for a few years.
As a result, this PoliGraph test leans toward false.
Kurt Bills fundraising letter, “Defeat Special Interests,” June 30, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Top PAC Recipients, All Senators, 2012 cycle, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Top PAC Recipients, All U.S. House Members, 2012 cycle, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Lobbyists: Money to Congress, All Senators, 2012 cycle, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Lobbyists: Money to Congress, All U.S. House Members, 2012 cycle, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Lawyers/Law Firms: Top Recipients, All Senators, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Lawyers/Law Firms: Top Recipients, All U.S. House Members, accessed July 23, 2012
E-mail exchange, Mike Osskopp, campaign manager, Kurt Bills for Senate, July 10, 2012
Interview, Sarah Bryner, lobbying researchers, OpenSecrets.org, July 11, 2012