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Culver amasses $1.5 million war chest
Gov. Chet Culver’s 2008 campaign finance disclosure report was released earlier this week, and it suggests he’s well-prepared should he face a serious challenge for reelection in 2010.
The governor’s nearly $1.5 million campaign war chest was funded in large part by political action committees (PACs) representing both corporate interests and labor unions. On the corporate side, Culver received sizable contributions — amounting to at least $5,000 each — from PACs in the gambling industry, the insurance industry, credit unions, building contractors, the Farm Bureau and hospitals, among others.
On the labor side, things get a bit more interesting. Some unions apparently gave Culver money up front last year, before they knew what decisions he would make. Such was the case for three prominent public employee unions: the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), which represents teachers, and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) gave Culver more than $30,000 combined in January 2008 alone.
Members of all three unions were hurt by Culver’s decision in May to veto a bill to expand public employees’ collective-bargaining rights after it passed both chambers of the Legislature. None of the three contributed to Culver’s campaign again last year.
But Culver did receive contributions throughout the year from other labor unions that may not have been concerned with public employees’ collective-bargaining rights.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which wants a more favorable environment to organize workers at meatpacking plants around the state, contributed $25,000 to Culver’s campaign early in the year, and Great Plains Laborers, who represent workers in several fields across the state, kicked in $60,000 at the very end of the year.
United Auto Workers (UAW), the union that has been perhaps the most loyal to Culver over the years, contributed $35,000.
Culver entered 2008 with about $1 million in cash on hand, and he raised about that much throughout the year. He spent about $550,000 on consultants and campaign expenses. Just over $65,000 went to a company called Global Strategy Group, which conducted polls for the governor. The dates of the polls were not disclosed.
Culver’s campaign also spent more than $700 in interest charges on the campaign’s Visa credit cards issued by US Bank, even though the campaign’s account would have been able to cover the full balances on both cards each month.
Small questions about expenses aside, the campaign-finance report indicates that last year was a better year for Culver than it may have seemed at the time. Any incumbent might have been able to count on small contributions from most of the interests who give to the governor, but the large size of the contributions Culver received could be a sign of more serious support from a broad coalition of interest groups.
If the checks keep rolling through the door in 2009 the way they did in 2008, Culver might just be able to scare off any serious opposition in 2010.