Robertson’s Funding Report Shows a Grass-Roots Advantage

Grassroots CampaignIt doesn’t take long to realize money plays a pivotal part in today’s political campaigns. Federal campaigns are required to report their funding records with the Federal Election Commissions every three months. The last report was due July 15; it recorded the campaign financial activities as of June 30.

The media reported that Rep. Tom Reed had received $661,000 in the April to June reporting period. A personal high for him. Martha Robertson received $461,000, a personal high for her. Most articles focused on the campaigns’ quarterly and cumulative totals. In the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets’s site we can also explore the details.

The belief is generally the campaign that raises the most money wins. According to a Washington Post article in April, in 2012 the congressional candidate that raised the most money won 91% of the time. The article has a chart looking at the data in detail worth looking at. (An article in PolitiFacts states in 2010, the rate was 94%)

Ninety-one percent is very impressive, but it gives some room for upsets. We only have to go back to June to remember the Eric Cantor/David Brat Virginia Republican Primary upset. Cantor out raised Brat 10 to 1, and out spent him 14.7 to 1, and lost.

I know that was a rare case, but it happens. The pundits looking at the race after it was over pointed out three key inter-related details that fell in place for Brat—Issues, Grass-Root Support, and Voter Turnout. The Issues, which have been discussed in an earlier New NY23rd article, motivated the grass-root supporters to get a heavy voter turnout.

 According to the New Oxford American Dictionary a definition of Grassroots is: Ordinary people regarded as the main body of an organization’s membership.

Martha Robertson seems to claim to have the grass-root support needed to win in November:

“As of today over 6,000 individual donors have stepped up to support our campaign and I am very honored by their faith and support.” Robertson said. “The people of the 23rd district are giving us a message loud and clear that they want a representative who will fight to protect Social Security and Medicare and someone who will bring economic prosperity to the region, rather than Congressman Tom Reed who continues to vote to cut Medicare and to raise taxes on the middle class in order to protect millionaires like him and corporations that ship jobs overseas.”

The information is what Ms Robertson is excited about. This is data on the people contributed to the campaigns (as opposed to Businesses, Corporations, and PACs.):

  • Notice that 61% of Reed’s individual donations came from New York State, compared to 85% of Robertson’s donations. Translated into real money that’s over $99,000 more than Reed.
  • Only 22% of Reed’s individual donations came from within our district, which is where Robertson received 61% of her donations. She received 2.3 times as much money from the NY 23rd as Reed.  These people have lived with Reed as their Representative, and have decided they don’t want him again. Once a person donates to a candidate they tend to work to get that candidate elected.
Contributions Tom Reed Martha Robertson
Within NYS

$509,370 (61%)

$608,737 (85%)

Outside NYS

$330,799 (39%)

$104,007 (15%)

Within NY 23rd

$182,542 (22%)

$431,214 (61%)

Outside NY 23rd

647,102 (78%)

$281,530 (40%)

No District



data from Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website

Another set of data points that “Ordinary People” tend to support Ms. Robertson. Small Contributions (less than $200) made up 21% of Robertson’s individual contributions, but only 3% of Reed’s. In real dollars, she received 3.7 times as much money from Small Contributors than he did. Their Large Contributions totals were closer, but Robertson still out raised Reed by more than $46,000!

Individuals have given Ms. Robertson 8.4% more than Rep. Reed.

SUMMARY Tom Reed Martha Robertson
Raised: $2,545,350 $1,508,893
Spent $1,386,562 $378,896
Cash On Hand $1,274,306 $1,129,997
Small Contributions

$83,378 (3%)

$314,293  (21%)

Large Contributions

$905,859 (36%)

  $952,530 (63%)

PAC Contributions  $1,401,735 (55%)

$219,326 (15%)

Self Financing


$15,000 (1%)


$154,377 (6%)

              $7,744 (1%)
data from Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website

Politically Action Committees overwhelmingly supported Reed over Robertson by more than $1,182,000. He has received 55% of all of his funding by PACS. Although not all PACs represents Corporations, some represent Labor and Ideological Groups, Reed received over $1 million from Business PACs, when Robertson received only $5,000.

Tom Reed

Martha Robertson






Ideological    $167,795




data from Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website


The data points out that Martha Robertson has the Grass-Root advantage over Tom Reed. The next step is to get the donors mobilized to bring in a large voter turnout. Voter turnout is traditionally down during a non-Presidential Election year. Being the challenger places the odds of winning against Martha, but this quarter’s fund raising information is good news for the challenger.

About pystew

Retired Teacher, political science geek, village trustee. I lean a little left, but like a good political discussion. My blog, the New NY 23rd (http://newny23rd) is about discussing the issues facing the people of our new congressional district. Let's hear all sides of the issues, not just what the candidates want us to hear.
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2 Responses to Robertson’s Funding Report Shows a Grass-Roots Advantage

  1. philebersole says:

    Where the candidates get their money tells you a lot about what they stand for.

    The comparison of campaign funding sources tells a good deal about the two candidates, especially the comparisons of how much they get from inside and outside the 23rd congressional district, and from inside and outside New York state, and also how much they get from small contributors and how much from PACs.

    Your reporting shows that Tom Reed gets most of his support from outside the district and from PACs, and a disproportionate share from outside New York state, so that it is clear to whom he would be beholden. Martha Robertson gets most of her support from within the 23rd congressional district and from individual contributors, and a disproportionate share from small contributors, so it is likewise clear to whom she would be beholden.

    A highly informative post!


  2. whungerford says:

    “Mayday,” the Pac for campaign finance reform, is looking for candidates to support. I have not suggested Martha for the reasons given in this article–better Martha win with grassroots support in her district than with a flood of funds from elsewhere that would put her on a par with Tom Reed.

    Woodrow Wilson, running for President, insisted he had not and would not accept support that would obligate him to anyone or any cause. He won nevertheless.


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