By now, the fact that Linda McMahon spent nearly $40 million of her own money on a failed 2012 campaign for U.S. Senate is old news.
But campaign finance data released earlier this month by the Federal Election Commission shows a much more complete picture of the race for U.S. Congress in Connecticut, including who and which organizations donated to the Senate and House of Representative campaigns during the last two years.
In the race between Republican McMahon and Sen.-elect Chris Murphy, McMahon outspent her Democrat opponent 4 to 1. But when it came to donations, Murphy raised nine times the amount of money McMahon did, according to a data analysis by the Fairfield County Business Journal.
Murphy received roughly $7.7 million in individual donations and roughly $1.4 million from organizations including political action committees (PACs). McMahon, on the other hand, raised $1.1 million in individual donations and didn’t receive any donations from PACs.
The race was the second-most expensive 2012 senate race in the nation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“A candidate has to establish a base of name familiarity,” said Ronald Schurin, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut. “For a challenger, that means you have to spend a lot more money than an incumbent. It used to be at least half a million.”
But in the case of McMahon versus Murphy, Schurin said McMahon likely had greater name recognition from her lead position at World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.
“Obviously spending more didn’t work,” he said. “It was an overkill effect. How much more did you need to hear from her? She got her message out there. Murphy came in a little late in the game but achieved the threshold, which made it a fairly comfortable victory for him.”
In terms of money, the race for Connecticut’s U.S. 4th Congressional District seat was considerably tighter.
To secure a third term, Rep. Jim Himes spent roughly $1.9 million on his campaign, which was 35 percent more than Republican challenger Steve Obsitnik spent on his own campaign.
Incumbents who spend more money on a campaign tend to fare worse, Schurin said. He noted that although Himes has now been in two tight races as a Democrat running in a Republican district, he had previously been named a top spender from his 2010 election, spending approximately $3.5 million.
“If you’re an incumbent, you don’t have to spend more if you’re not in a tight race,” he said. “But this year he was able to pare back apparently.”
Himes raised nearly $2 million in individual donations and about $1 million from PACs. In comparison, Obsitnik raised $1.3 million from individuals and $51,000 from PACs.
About 250 PACs donated to Himes’ campaign, including many prominent banking, investment and insurance companies. PricewaterhouseCoopers, UBS, Travelers Insurance, JPMorgan Chase and Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and others each donated $10,000, the highest amount allowed, to Himes’ campaign. In contrast, roughly 20 PACs donated an average of $2,500 to Obsitnik’s campaign. Nearly all of those were Republican Party PACs, as opposed to corporate affiliate PACs like those that donated to Himes.