Thursday, January 03, 2008

a smaller cheaper state legislature? maybe.

This post changed as I was typing it. News is that Elisabeth Bennington is choosing not to run again for state representative after upsetting long term incumbent Frank Pistella two years ago. As I mentioned earlier, she was likely to have a tough fight with at least former police commander Dom Costa said to be running along with ousted city councilman Len Bodack out there needing a job. It's a little late in the season to just now be telling people you are not running again. She may have just seen the writing on the wall at this point. Anyone who is running has to have a campaign in place at this point. It's literally only 37 days until the ACDC endorsement meeting. In fact, if you want to be considered at all for the endorsement, you have all of 14 days to send in the check. Yup, 14 days.

The race where Bennington beat Pistella is interesting one to compare to this race I read about when driving through rural Virginia a few weeks ago. I literally saw this headline which caught my eye in the Winchester Star: "Regional Senate race was state’s costliest ". What it says is that for Virginia's 27th State Senate a total of $3,866,202 was spent by candidates in the race. In the end district Republican Jill H. Vogel spent $1,721,304 in a 48-47 victory over Democrat Karen K. Schultz who spent $1,430,460. $3.8 million! think about that a bit. More significantly, of that 1.7 million spent by Vogel, the article explains that $466K came from ONE contributor. How much do local races cost? You can look up state financing on the Pennsylvania's secretary of state's campaign finance website. In the last state election cycle for legislators I looked up what the contested race in PA 21 cost the candidates. From what I see, then incumbent Frank Pistella spent $23,375 in the 2006 primary season. Bennington the victor spent $39,942. Even combined the total spent was 1/6oth of what was spent in that one Virginia race.

While all politicians need to worry about raising money I don't really sense that the myriad of state legislators in Pennsylvania spend all their time consumed with fundraising. For a local state legislator to raise over $1 million for a single race, that really means they have to be working on raising money all year long and then some. Many have advocated for a smaller Pennsylvania legislature and its a compelling argument. Yet, the large $$ amounts in that one Virginia race makes me wonder about how money would impact a smaller legislature. Maybe the larger legislature dilutes the influence of big money holds some water. Lobbying and influence seeking money will always be out there. If some of the more radical proposals for the Pennsylvania state legislature were implemented, say shrinking it from 203 to 50 seats... will all that same money just wind up concentrated on that many fewer candidates, often concentrated on the incumbents. It might lower the public payroll a bit, but with races costing in the $millions, the amount spent on salaries is a fraction of the money actually being spent in the political process. I am not sure what the lesser evil is in the end.

How much money is spent overall. I would not take this as definitive data, but I wrote a script to pull data from the campaign finance web site. Since the primary is coming up I pulled out what I think were all of the 2006 primary election races for the Pennsylvania house and senate. It's not the cleanest data with people changing the names of their committees, filing amendments and the like.... but I think I have an accurate summary. When you combine the results from cycles 1 2 and 3 in 2006 you get this list of total expenditures by campaign committee for the 2006 primary.

Overall I would say $20 million was reported as being spent in the 2006 primary season by over 800 individual filers at an average of $25K per campaign. At the very top were some of the biggest races for then senate leaders Brightbill and Jubalier which both spent over a million. The $ amounts drop off pretty fast from there. That one big $466K contributor in the Virginia race mentioned could have conceivably funded the entire expenditures of all but 6 of the campaigns in 2006 Pennsylvania primary races.

I may update this if I ever spend anytime cleaning the data, but here is my current list of top total expenditures by campaign . Note the district numbers could refer to either a house of senate district. I didn't think of that when pulling the data. And again, I would not take this as definitive, if you see something of interest, feel free to look up the details yourself with the online report search page. The changing names of the committees means some of the summaries are not the full picture and you can see some of the dups in there. The top 20 expenditures I will list below, the full excel file I have linked above.



Committee name District Total
Expenditures
(cycles 1,2 and 3)
Friends of Senator Jubelirer Committee 30 $1,400,398
BRIGHTBILL, DAVE FRIENDS OF SENATOR COM 48 $1,002,414
Friends of John Perzel 172 $864,289
VEON, MIKE COM TO ELECT 14 $823,187
FUMO, VINCENT FOR SENATE 1 $571,283
John Perzel Victory 2006 172 $483,069
WHEATON, HEIDI PA PATRIOTS FOR 36 $334,581
DEWEESE, BILL CAMPAIGN COM 50 $316,686
Baker for Senate 20 $290,346
Friends of Mike Brubaker 36 $266,424
EICHELBERGER, JOHN - I LIKE EICH 30 $254,509
DOLAN, MIKE LEADERSHIP FUND 30 $254,316
GRABOYES, TERRY FRIENDS OF 175 $220,069
WHEATON, HEIDI F. 36 $218,836
HAGGERTY, JIM FOR SENATE 20 $212,089
Evans, John Friends of 5 $208,822
O'Donnell Brian for State Representative 121 $208,302
GANNON, TOM COM TO ELECT 161 $178,578
MATTA, GEORGE FRIENDS OF 35 $178,012
FUMO FOR STATE SENATE COMMITTEE 1 $167,731


2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never understood the drive for a smaller legislature. Many intelligent people I know take it as gospel that a smaller legislature will lead to smaller government, but I've never seen the evidence. Those folks also seem to believe that the legislature costs more money than it does--just like those who think that "foreign aid" or "welfare" is 30 or 40 percent of the federal budget. It seems to me that a larger legislature results in greater representative democracy. Does anyone think that the smallish California legislature (with 80 Assemblypersons (one per 500,000 residents) and 40 Senators (one per million residents) is better?

Friday, January 04, 2008 5:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A smaller legislature will also mean less constituent service. It may be better to simply clean up what we have, but that will take someone who is smart and knows Harrisburgh politics. Rendell thought he was, but look what happened in his first budget-- he got his butt kicked.

Friday, January 25, 2008 9:27:00 PM  

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