Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Further Look at Patrick Murphy’s Campaign Finance Reports

There have been a few articles about Congressman Patrick Murphy’s 2007 fundraising in the Bucks County Courier Times recently. Let’s take a look at one of those articles, then at some comparative data and finish up with a look at a few donations in particular. Here are some quotes from the BCCT.

A look at donor’s to Murphy campaign,” by Brian Scheid Bucks County Courier Times 8/08

So far this year, Murphy has raised about $670,000 in donations from individuals. According to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly, nearly $280,000 of those contributions came from Pennsylvania residents. That means that about 54 percent of the contributions came from individuals from other states, according to Congressional Quarterly.

However, those out-of-state donors weren't entirely Beltway residents, according to the analysis. Murphy raised about $79,000 from donors in New York, the most of any state outside Pennsylvania, and nearly $26,000 from California donors. Murphy raised about $73,000 from donors with Washington, D.C., Virginia or Maryland addresses.

In his first six months in Congress, Murphy has raked in more than $420,000 in contributions from political action committees. That makes up about 40 percent of his fundraising.

I’d like to further comment on this. I’ve kept watch on campaign finance reports lately. Looking at the first 6 months of 2007, as one group, is enlightening but a little misleading. Let’s separate the numbers into the two quarterly reports filed, and also take a look at the reports from the post-general (10/19 to 11/27, 2006) and end of year (11/28 to 12/31, 2006) reports. After all, everyone loves a winner and money often flows in after an election, but it comes in at different times from different people.

Let’s also compare with some of Pennsylvania’s other freshman congressional representatives, and maybe provide some historical perspectives. This data is taken from the FEC’s website, Some reports are amended and I made an effort to take numbers from the latest report, but apologize for any numbers from reports that were later amended.

Patrick Murphy (D-08)

10/19 to 11/27 $298,288.75 from individuals, $86,173.29 from PACS, political party committees $13,464.06

11/28 to 12/31 year end report, $1,383 from individuals, $45,750 from PACs. This is an example of “everyone loves a winner.”

In the first quarterly report, $155,506.12 came in from individuals and $184,620.33 from PACS. This is a lopsided percentage and most politicians want to avoid having more money from special interests that the folks back home (assuming that’s where most individual contributions come from).

However, in the second quarter, the percentages flipped. In those three months $512,577.62 came in from individuals and $ 238,150.00 from PACS. That’s more than twice as much from people than groups.

The big test will be in watching future quarterly reports.

Now to compare with the other newly elected representatives.

Joe Sestak (D-07)
Post-general 10/19 – 11/27 individuals $359,927.99; PACS $123,457.06

Year-end 11/28-12/31 individuals $6,475, PACS $2,500 (political party committees smaller so left out)

Jan-Mar individuals $291,912.14; PACS $147,600

Apr – June individuals $330,766.01; PACS $165,400.19

So, he’s doing pretty good at keeping the individual contributions larger than the PAC contributions.

Chris Carney (D-10)
Post general individual $ 241,959.05 PAC $ 136,796.67

Year end individual $50.00 PAC $2,500.00

Jan – Mar individual $ 107,820.02 PAC $ 146,570.33

Apr – June individual $ 53,081.24 PAC $ 221,750.00

A little out of kilter but he has a more rural district and money may not be so freely available in the area.

Jason Altmire (D-04)
Post general individual $28,867.32 PAC $92,050.00, political party committees $23,300.00

Year end individual $11,410.40 PAC $43,350.00

Jan – Mar individual $45,415.00 PAC $179,970.33

Apr – June individual $126,629.96 PAC $240,384.40 political party committees $1,010.47

Now, for historical perspective, let’s look at how 2004 newbies Mike Fitzpatrick (who lost to Murphy in 2006) and Allyson Schwartz did in their first reports.

Mike Fitzpatrick (R-08) 2004
Post general 10/14-11/22 individual $150,225.97 PACS $258,903.40, transfers from other authorized committees $122,339.00

Year-end 11/23 -12/31 individual $9,905.00 PACS 0, transfers from other authorized committees $10,192.60

Jan – Mar individual $264,419.17 PACS $215,550.00

Apr-June individual $117,105.00 PACS $205,868.00

3rd quarter more PACS than individuals, 4th quarter slightly more individuals

Allyson Schwartz (D-13) 2004
Post-general 10-14 – 11/22 individual $420,611.85 PAC $124,619.37

Year-end 11/23-12/31 individual $27,584.37 PAC $3,499.00

Jan-Mar individual $354,308.00 PAC $50,599.00

Apr-June individual $384,438.67 PAC $106,140.48

3rd and 4th quarter continue with PACS a third or a fourth of individual

Compared to his contemporaries Murphy’s individual / PAC ratio is not out of line. I was not able to compare his in-state / out-of-state numbers with the other congressional representatives. Looking at newly-elected representatives two years earlier, his numbers are favorably compared with Fitzpatrick but he has a lower individual / pac ratio than Allyson Schwartz.

In the micro level, let’s look at a few specific donations during the post-election time period. This information comes primarily from

In 2007, two Amgen executives each donated $500, for a total of $1000. According to, no Amgen employees donated to Murphy during the 2006 campaign season. Nor did the Amgen PAC, which tends to give more to Republicans. They did not donate to the former Congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick, either. But, during 2007 there were the two donations. It doesn’t seem to have gotten them much, if their intent was to buy a congressman. According to the 8/10/07 Wall Street Journal (“Amgen weighs how to cut costs” by Marilyn Chase) Amgen is considering layoffs because of “recent federal actions tightening reimbursement policy for anemia drugs.”

While looking through the 2007 reports I noticed a few donations from employees of Aristeia Capital, an investment management and bond firm. Checking opensecrets I noticed quite a few donations from Aristeia people to Murphy, in late 2006 as well as the 2007 donations. None of the donors lived in Pennsylvania; in fact all but one are in New York. Aristeia is an interesting case. I looked at their political contributions generally. Cross checking with personal names I can see that a few donation records have misspellings or missing information and don’t show up under the employee / occupation search but only a few so let’s work with the information that shows up under Aristeia. Twenty Aristeia employees made donations of a sufficient amount to show up in the database. There were 80 political donations in 2006 and 2007, for a total of $350,484, most to Democrats but at least one employee favors Republican candidates. Twenty-six donations were made by one employee, 17 were by another, so two employees made almost half of the donations. A few employees make large (over $20,000) donations to congressional or senatorial caucuses; many made just a few smaller ($250 or $500) donations. Two or three high rollers accounted for a greater percentage of the total amount. One donor accounted for nearly a third. Aristeia is a latecomer to the political process. Only eight donations from their employees are recorded before 2006.

But let’s get back to Patrick Murphy. Sixteen Aristeia employees donated to his campaign, that’s 80% of all the employees who made political donations. A total of $112,068 was contributed to a total of 29 candidates. Of that amount Murphy received $11,550, putting him in a near tie with Barack Obama. The two of them received far more than the other candidates. Twelve donated to Murphy in late October; five made another donation later, an additional four donated to his campaign in 2007.

So how did this happen? His committee memberships have nothing to do with finance or money matters. The bills he has introduced have nothing to do with finance, other than small business. The company surely would not put so many of their eggs in one basket if their intent is to influence legislation.

Speculation is easy. I wondered if someone at Aristeia had gone to school with Murphy or was a student of his at West Point. To find out I asked someone in the campaign. The answer I received is that Murphy met someone from Aristeia at a veterans event who later set up a “meet and greet” with his colleagues.

What does this all mean? It’s hard to say. Murphy can clearly raise money, from people as well as political action committees. He can turn a chance meeting at a public event into over $11,000 in donations.

It will be interesting to see what shows up with future finance reports.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that math is not one of my particular skills and I was working with printouts from opensecrets, a calculator, and a pencil, not a spreadsheet or database management program.


looking italian said...

In this case math is to some extent a fool's errand. The numbers among the various reports don't match up exactly. I'm not sure why that is, but one possible complication is the post-general report which covers a time span spread out over two different cycles.

I can't see how the 46-54 in-state/oute-of-state split figure was settled upon. Unless CQ (unfortunately behind a subscription wall) has access to donor information that the Murphy campaign is not obligated to report to the FEC, unitemized contributions (i.e., < $200) were not included in the calculation. Regardless, Scheid's reference to the CQ figures makes no sense; 280K into 670K is less than 42%.

Fitzpatrick had more PAC money than individual money for the whole '06 cycle, let alone the first six months. Not that this is stopping him from taking potshots from the sidelines on this issue, because, well, that's all he ever does. It's not like he has the gumption for an actual rematch in '08.

Good work, Jane.

AboveAvgJane said...


Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, parsing the figures in campaign finance reports tends to be subjective, you read into it what you want and numbers by themselves don't always mean much. And they seldom if ever match up and then there are the smaller donations which aren't broken down or listed individually. I thought grouping the first 6 months together without looking at seasonally trends or including the post-general and year end didn't give the full flavor which was the rationale behind this post. Also not very useful without looking at comparative data.

Another Scheid article on the 12th did look at some individual out of state donors. I wanted to do a little of that, too, thus the Amgen and Aristeia info. Again, as you mention, the $200 (in open secrets I think it is actually $250 and may not be cumulative) threshold could mask other similar donations.

However, I agree with you that looking at the ratio of individual vs pac monies is a good indicator. Looking across the board a lot of that money pours in AFTER the election when the outcome is no longer uncertain and lobbyists want to get their points in early.

It is always good to see your comments here. They are consistently thoughtful.