PoliGraph: Bills claim on Klobuchar fundraising misses mark

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.

The Evidence

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.

The Verdict

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.

SOURCES

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

  • Sanjay

    Catherine Richert is a venomous virulent propaganda snake who wants to annihilate middle class and unleash totalitarian terror on United States.

    Confiscate, loot, plunder, maim and slaughter the middle class with taxes, federal reserve slavery and federal govt terror. This is the Minnesota Public Radio agenda.

    Who funds Minnesota “Public” Radio, which wages a war on Middle class and poor with their money?

  • Chad Libya

    Well at least Sanjay is not upset…

  • Mike Osskopp

    Catherine,

    I’m puzzled. Our claim”…coming from someone who is in the top 5% of special interest donations in Washington DC.”

    Your research:….”When she’s compared to all Senate and House members, IT’S TRUE THAT KLOBUCHAR IS IN THE TOP 5% OF LAWMAKERS COLLECTING DONATIONS FROM A RANGE OF SPECIAL INTERSTS.”

    Your verdict: …this PoliGraph test leans toward false.

    What?

  • Catharine Richert

    Mike:

    Klobuchar is not running for U.S. House, she’s running for the Senate. If she were running for the House, the claim would be true.

    But comparing Klobuchar’s fundraising to fundraising done by members of the House, who don’t have to raise nearly as much as senators do to run a campaign, would be akin to comparing presidential campaign fundraising to Senate campaign fundraising – they’re just too different to compare.

  • mike osskopp

    Catherine,

    Now I’m even more puzzled.

    Again, what was our claim? That she was in the top 5% of special interest recipients. What did your research show? She’s in the top 5% of special interest recipients.

    We didn’t say the senate. We said top 5% of everyone. Your research showed she’s in the top 5% of everyone.

    We can argue semantics but you were fact checking our claim. Our claim is accurate.

    At least our claim leans toward true not false.

  • Pete

    Mike,

    You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. If you have actual document evidence to back up your claim, why didn’t you present it?

    We might as well say that Kurt Bills in the top 5% of special interest recipients, because he’s going to be the #3 fundraiser in the State, behind Bachman and Klobuchar. I mean, once we compare him to the 201 state legislative races, and against local dog catcher races, he’s going to be raking in a lot of special interest cash, assuming he makes it past the primary. Doesn’t sound fair, but hey, semantics and context don’t matter as long as it sounds good to the base, right?

    To me it sounds like another case where Kurt Bills fails to understand how money and numbers work in general. Perhaps, if we violate the Constitution and print our own money backed by the hoards of Minnesota gold, the math might work?

  • Mike Osskopp

    Pete,

    I have my own facts. The fact is Amy is in the top 5% of all special interest recipients. That’s a fact.

    How do you find it out? You compare her reports with the other 534 members of Congress. Just like I did.

    When you do that, you get the facts. Catherine likes to call and ask for our source. She doesnt want to do the work herself. I get that. Reporters are lazy. Especially biased ones.

    Check the facts. Amy is in the top 5% of all members of Congress in special interest money. I said so. Catherine said so.

  • Pete

    Well, Mike, I think you’ve proved to everyone here that you’re making stuff up with what you describe as your “own facts,” which again, you are not entitled to have. The fact we can all agree on is “First, his campaign couldn’t provide specific sources for its statement.”

    How do you think Mr. Bills would act if one of his students said he didn’t have to show his work and called his teacher lazy and biased for asking to see how he got his answer? Why do you think you deserve to get away with not showing how you arrived at your conclusion, when the evidence Catherine shows points to a different answer? Is this how you and Mr. Bills plan to act in Washington? What about transparency?

    If we’re going to audit the Fed, shouldn’t we be able to audit your sources for your claims? And shouldn’t we be honest about what we’re actually comparing, without omissions or caveats? I bet you could get this upgraded to “Misleading” if you’d just admit that you’re not comparing her to other senators and could produce your sources instead of saying you have your own facts.

  • mike osskopp

    Pete,’

    You’re not listening. Typical for a lib. I told you my source. Go to FEC website and pull the first quarter reports for all 535 members of Congress. Compare them. When you do that, you will see that Amy ranks in the top 5% of all special interest recipients. That takes work. You can do it. I have faith in you.

  • Jamie

    Mr. osskopp:

    Why do you have to be so snide and sneering and condescending with your comments? Typical Republican.

  • Jillionaire

    What a surprise, a bought-and-paid-for “reporter” has handed-over her soul to the New World Order puppetmasters. Shame on you, Catharine Richert and MPR News, for calling yourselves “public”.