Analysis: Is Mia Love’s Campaign Spending Out of Whack?

Mia LoveThe adage is you have to spend money to make money. If that’s the case, Rep. Mia Love is taking that to heart.

Utah Democrats gleeful about Love’s spending during the last quarter, saying she’s squandering her resources her campaign spent more than they pulled in during the last three months of 2015.
At first blush, the optics of Love’s spending paints a picture of a campaign throwing money around like a drunken sailor. But, things might not be as they seem. In reality, Love looks to be establishing a fundraising network that could pay off big time later in 2016.
A analysis of Love’s 4th quarter filing with the Federal Election Commission finds the freshman member of Congress spent $187,615.09 on activities that are likely related to fundraising. This includes:
  • $33,752.03 on “fundraising consulting.”
  • $12,818.40 on direct mail
  • $36,639.17 for printing
  • $37,066.87 on advertising
  • $6704.76 for marketing
  • $49,541 for postage
Mia Love’s campaign tells that total of $176,522.23 includes non-fundraising costs including Christmas Cards. However, for the sake of argument, we’ll use that figure.
Love raised $314,257 in the last fundraising quarter, but  $34,782.87 of those contributions came from political committees, meaning $279474.16 came from individuals who would respond to fundraising pleas. That means, in the last quarter alone, Love raised approximately $1.70 for every dollar spent on fundraising, which is about a 70% ROI.
So, is that squandering money? Not really.
Consider that most of the donors who responded to the fundraising plea gave nowhere near the maximum donation for the election cycle, Love’s campaign can continue to tap those same donors moving forward.
Love’s campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said he’s not worried about the high spending on fundraising.
“Off years are the times to build your donor base which then pays huge dividends in the election year.  Direct mail costs are always higher than the cost of raising major donor dollars, but that is how you get contributions you would not get any other way,” he said.
Plus, says Hansen, these fundraising activities pay off multiple times down the road because they are building a fundraising network they can tap again.
“A donor who gives you $25 once is very likely to give you $25 or $50 multiple times in the future, not every time you mail them, but enough times to make it profitable.”
In 2014, Love outraised Owens by more than five times, pulling in more than $5.3 million. Naturally, she also outspent Owens by the same margin.  Despite that money disparity, Love prevailed by just over 7500 votes, which is one of the main reasons Owens is running against her again in 2016.
The race has been tabbed by national observers as one of the few competitive races nationwide this year, and advisors close to the Owens campaign say he is expecting some national funding to filter into the race in support of his upset bid, which didn’t happen last time.
If that happens, Love will need all the help she can get from the fundraising network she’s building now.