Campaign finance reports are out. Here’s what they tell us.

What-Campaign-Finance-Reports-Tell-Us

Monday, July 15 marked the second filing deadline this year for statewide candidates and officeholders to file a campaign finance report.

These reports are filed semi-annually with the Texas Ethics Commission and made available to the public to ensure accountability for the source of a candidate or officeholders’ funds and how those funds are spent. During election years (like 2020), candidates must file an additional two pre-election reports 30 days prior to an election and eight days before an election.

Here’s what you’ll find in the reports, and what it means:

Total Political Contributions: The total amount of money a candidate or officeholder raised in the last six months

Political contributions include any monetary or in-kind contributions accepted with the intent to use funds or donations to campaign for an election. For example, a commercial building owner could choose not to charge a candidate to use her space for a campaign event, but the cost of renting that space must be reported to the TEC as an in-kind donation.

Total Expenditures: The total amount of money a candidate or officeholder spent in the last six months

Politicians spend money on a wide array of topics to get elected, but a large portion of funds usually goes towards overhead for campaign offices and staff, travel and advertising.

Cash On Hand: The total amount of money a candidate has to spend. Funds include contributions from the past six months in addition to unspent money raised during earlier periods. Importantly, this number also includes loan funding, which is money that must eventually be paid back. The most common loans include candidates self-funding a campaign or borrowing from a bank.

What the numbers tell us:

  • The contributions laid out in the reports tell us who donated to a candidate or officeholder, and often speak to the motivations of that person should he/she be elected. 
  • Many see large amounts of money raised as an indication of excitement or electability for a particular candidate, especially if many individual donors contributed small amounts.

Though state races don’t often get a lot of attention from national groups, Texas is drawing attention this year from both Democrat and Republican political organizations invested in the outcome of a purple state. For Candidate Committees, PACs, and Party Committees in statewide and legislative elections, contributions are mostly unlimited.

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