Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards saw a major fundraising boost in the final campaign stretch before beating Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter — bringing in more than four times as much cash as Vitter in the last three weeks of the governor’s race.
Both campaigns filed finance reports this week that detail the amounts they raised and spent from Nov. 2 through Dec. 21. The runoff election was held Nov. 21, and Edwards won with about 56 percent of the vote. Edwards will be sworn into office on Monday.
The fundraising figures illustrate the shifting tide of support as the race neared its end, as well as the boost in financial resources that helped tip Edwards over the edge.
Vitter, a two-term U.S. senator who was long viewed as the presumptive front-runner in the race, emerged from the October primary bruised after battling Republicans Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne in what became a bitter race to face Democrat Edwards. For weeks, polls showed Edwards with a slight lead over Vitter in a head-to-head match-up — even as pundits questioned whether a Democrat could win in Republican-leaning Louisiana.
But Edwards’ campaign raised more than $4.8 million in cash contributions from Nov. 2 through the Nov. 21 election. Nearly $400,000 more was given to his campaign in the month after he won.
Meanwhile, Vitter’s campaign — once seen as having an inevitable financial advantage in the race — raised about $1.1 million in the final three-week stretch. Another $47,000 came in after he lost to Edwards.
The latest round of financial disclosures show Edwards also outspent Vitter during the reporting period — $5.2 million to Vitter’s $3.2 million, which is about $1.60 to every dollar Vitter spent.
While much of the money went toward television advertising and other campaign materials, Edwards also showed his team that it literally pays to win.
Edwards dished out at least $147,000 in so-called “win bonuses” — perks paid to campaign staffers upon completion of a successful election.
Edwards’ campaign manager Linda Day’s win bonus was $50,000, according to the campaign report.
Fundraising consultant L.A. Harris and Associates got a $30,000 bonus, and Top Drawer Strategies, which is owned by former campaign spokeswoman Mary-Patricia Wray, was paid a $15,000 bonus.
B-3 Consulting LLC and Gwen Barsley each got $10,000 bonuses, while Bruce Parker got a $7,500 boost. Other campaign staffers were each paid between $5,000 and $1,500 in win bonuses.
Edwards’ campaign also gave $100,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, which supported Edwards’ campaign with television ads and other efforts.
Vitter, meanwhile, gave $90,000 to the Louisiana Republican Party.
Television advertising was the bulk of expenditures for both campaigns, as ads aired on a seemingly nonstop loop in local markets. Edwards’ campaign reported more than $2.8 million in media buys during the time period, while Vitter’s campaign classified about $1.7 million as television expenditures, as well as $105,000 on radio media expenses and $234,000 on other media expenses.
Arsement Media Group, the consultant behind several of Edwards’ high-profile campaign ads, received more than $500,000 from the campaign in November. Two of the Arsement-created ads were recently listed among Politico.com’s top 10 political ads of 2015.
On the fundraising side, Edwards’ campaign brought in nearly five times as many contributions as Vitter during the reporting period — a handful of them repeated small donations.
More than 2,500 of Edwards’ donations were $50 or less, the report shows.
Edward’s contributions also were geographically diverse.
The only states Edwards didn’t receive contributions from were Rhode Island, West Virginia, Iowa and North Dakota. Edwards also received a $12.50 contribution from a supporter in France, $5,000 from a resident of Puerto Rico and $7.50 from a supporter with a military base address.
Edwards reported having $831,100 in his campaign coffer on Dec. 21. Vitter reported $76,000 cash on hand.
Independent political action committees supporting each candidate also filed reports this week.
The pro-Vitter Fund for Louisiana’s Future raised $1.18 million during the reporting period and spent $1.67 million.
The pro-Edwards Louisiana Families First PAC raised about $500,000 and spent about $645,000 during the period. Political action committees can campaign in support or opposition to candidates but cannot work directly with their campaigns.