The largest Republican political action committees spent about $1.75 million helping their candidates for the state Legislature last month, about three times as much as their Democratic counterparts, according to financial disclosures filed Wednesday.
The financial superiority allowed Republicans, for example, to pay for 120 separate direct mail pieces that were listed on the state GOP’s main legislative committee during the period, Oct. 1-27. The main Democratic committee did just 60.
Further, in the previous reporting period, Republicans paid for 42 direct mail pieces; the Democrats had none.
The main Republican PAC, called Tennessee Legislative Campaign Committee (TLCC), reported expenditures of more than $1.2 million on legislative races for the 27 days. The House and Senate Republican Caucuses together had another $550,000 in separate spending, not counting money they gave TLCC as reimbursement for mailings handled by the party.
The main Tennessee Democratic Party PAC reported spending just under $500,000 on the party’s legislative campaigns. The House and Senate Democratic Caucuses collectively spent $108,000, excluding reimbursements to the party for mailings.
Thus, the Republican spending total is about $1.75 million; Democrats $608,000.
TLCC had a cash-on-hand balance of $411,742 for the last days of campaigning. The Democratic Party’s main PAC had a balance of $31,864.
The figures do not include so-called “leadership PACs” set up by legislators to benefit members of their party, where Republicans also have a huge advantage. For example, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s PAC spent almost $200,000 during the period — not counting reimbursement money to TLCC — and still had a cash balance of $196,732. Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle’s PAC, meanwhile, spent just $5,800 and had a balance of $14,618.
Republicans now hold a 20-13 majority in the Senate and a 64-34 majority in the House with one independent. Republicans can gain a “super majority” of two-thirds by gaining just two seats each in the House and Senate and are hopeful they will gain more than that.
Adam Nickas, executive director of the state Republican party, said the GOP is “spending every dollar wisely” and targeting races even in traditional Democratic districts. He said the Democrats, on the other hand, are paying for “a bigger bureaucracy” with about 25 staffers versus seven for Republicans.
Brandon Puttbrese, communications director of the state Democratic party, said the staffers — paid a total of about $65,000 in the most recent reporting period — are the nucleus of a volunteer effort that has had direct contact with about 500,000 households in the state, either by knocking on the door or making a phone call.
“While they’re flooding your mailbox with garbage, we’ll be knocking on your door talking about real Democratic values,” he said. “This is the most aggressive field operation that the Tennessee Democratic party has ever put together.”
Note: See also The City Paper and the Chattanooga Times-Free Press reports on new campaign finance disclosure filings.