Reynolds, Grassley see more PAC money and large donations than challengers

By: - July 29, 2022 4:48 pm

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Political action groups are funding Iowa Republican re-election campaigns on issues like gun regulation and education in the lead-up to the general election, July campaign finance reports show.

Incumbent candidates like Gov. Kim Reynolds are also receiving bigger donations from individuals than their opponents. Reynolds, a Republican, is competing against Democratic candidate Deidre DeJear to hold her seat as Iowa governor in the Nov. 7 election. The most recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows 48% of likely midterm voters support the current governor, while 31% support DeJear.

That polling advantage is coupled with a major fundraising lead. Reynolds has more than $5.2 million cash on hand, according reports submitted to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. That’s more than 10 times the amount DeJear has – just a little over $503,000 in cash.

In the same campaign finance period – from May 15 to July 14 – Reynolds raised more than $633,000 to DeJear’s nearly $256,000.

In that time period, Reynolds received more high-number donations than DeJear. The Republican collected four $25,000 checks, from CEOs of businesses including Acuity Brands and Terra Industries. She also received 10 $10,000 donations and 23 $5,000 donations.

DeJear’s campaign had just three $5,000 donations, from the CEO of Kum & Go Tanner Krause, Jennifer DiBrienza of Palo Alta, California, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Her numbers are far behind Reynolds' previous challenger, Fred Hubbell, who ran as the governor sought her first reelection in 2018. By the July reporting deadline, Hubbell had raised $2.6 million while Reynolds had raised $1.17 million.

Education interest groups contribute to governor's race, but no huge pushes

Reynolds also received bigger political action committee donations. The Associated General Contractors of Iowa PAC contributed $10,000 to her campaign this July, and interest groups for industry and education also gave thousands. DeJear did not have any PAC contributions in the same period.

The governor's campaign received $1,500 from the Educational Opportunities PAC in July, the funding arm of school choice group Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education.

Education has been at the forefront of Reynolds' policy platform for the future this election cycle. In the June primary, she supported candidates who backed her bill to provide 10,000 scholarships to Iowa students to attend private schools, financed by taxpayer money.

Groups like the American Federation for Children Action Fund, a group that poured tens of thousands into contentious Iowa Republican primary races on issues like the education bill, have not donated to Reynolds' campaign, according to most recent filings.

Grassley receives more PAC support

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley did not have the same fundraising advantage as Reynolds this reporting cycle. Democratic challenger Michael Franken raised over $1.75 million in the most recent fundraising period, while Grassley raised about $609,000.

Grassley still has a large advantage with cash on hand, with more than $4 million, while Franken has about $1.1 million. The longtime senator also still has an advantage in fundraising totals having raised nearly $7.5 million in this election cycle. Franken, who won a contested Democratic primary race against former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer in June, has raised more than $4.5 million total.

Franken outraised Grassley at this checkpoint, but the senator's campaign staff said Democrats vying for U.S. Senate seats in Iowa have done better in years past. In 2020, Democrat Theresa Greenfield had raised more than $10 million by this point in the election cycle in her campaign against U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst.

“Iowa Democrats must be disappointed that their ‘star’ recruit is in such a weak financial position,” Grassley’s campaign communication director Michaela Sundermann said in a news release.

PAC contributions make up much of the difference. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Grassley has received more than $2.6 million in PAC contributions during his 2022 reelection campaign.

In the most recent federal election filing cycle, from May 19 through June 30, PACs gave Grassley more than $271,000, making up over 40% of his total campaign contributions. His top PAC contributors this reporting cycle included contributions from business committees like the Land O’Lakes and General Motors, farming and business interest groups, as well as Republican leadership committees.

Franken received $41,000 in the most recent election cycle. Most of his fundraising has come from small individual contributions – people who give less than $200.

Gun regulation interest groups get into Iowa Senate race

As the election approaches, more interest groups are investing in the race. The National Rifle Association and manufacturer Smith & Wesson's PACs contributed to Grassley's campaign in June.

The Brady PAC, a gun violence advocacy group, endorsed Franken on Monday. He has not received funding from the organization in recent campaign finance reports, but Jason Pressberg, the committee's executive director, said politicians like Franken were needed in Washington to address the surge of mass shootings this year. 

Franken said he's uniquely equipped to take on gun regulation as a candidate because of his decades of service as a U.S. Navy admiral.

"No one is going to gun-splain me. I’ve seen up close and personal the carnage produced by weapons of war,” Franken said in a news release. “We must stop the senseless bloodshed in this country, and the only way to do so is to elect leaders who are willing to stand up to the gun lobby, which Senator Grassley has failed to do over and over again.”

Grassley voted against compromise legislation on gun regulation in June. He said was concerned about the constitutionality of provisions like the "boyfriend loophole," which allowed unmarried partners to own guns even if they have abuse charges.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, also a Republican, voted in favor of the legislation. But Grassley said the legal definitions set out in the bill were “too vague to be enforced, or at least consistently enforced."

Franken's campaign said that his vote was tied to NRA backing. The organization also opposed the legislation.

"Gun violence is a public health epidemic in this country, and to solve this epidemic, we need leaders who will work for the people of America, not corporate interests,” said Franken campaign manager Julie Stauch said.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.

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