The national record for self-funding of a congressional campaign, set two years ago by Potomac businessman David Trone, appears to have been broken by — yes, David Trone.
Campaign finance disclosure reports filed late Monday with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show that Trone—during the three-month period from July 1 through Sept. 30—pumped $4.5 million in personal assets into his bid for the open 6th District congressional seat. This included a $1.5 million direct contribution to the campaign and $3 million in the form of a loan.
With this latest infusion of cash, Trone, since announcing for the 6th District slot in the summer of 2017, has made $12.73 million in contributions to his campaign committee, along with a $3.25 million in loans. This brings the total amount of personal funds that he has pumped into his current congressional bid to nearly $16 million.
By comparison, Trone—the co-owner of Total Wine & More, a retail chain with 189 stores in 23 states—made direct contributions of $13.4 million of his personal assets in a 2016 bid for the Democratic nomination in the neighboring 8th District. According to the nonpartisan, Center for Responsive Politics, Trone’s 2016 campaign set a new national record for self-funding by a candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
By putting $3.25 million of what he has given the 2018 campaign in the form of loans, Trone, if elected, could seek to repay himself from future campaign fundraising, thereby reducing the net donation to his candidacy. But, as a rule, such loans from candidates to their committees are, at best, only partially paid off—if repaid at all. Many of these loans are ultimately written off as direct contributions to the campaign committee.
Trone, who finished second to now-U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin in the 8th District primary two years ago, this year emerged victorious in an eight-way contest for the 6th District Democratic nomination in June, and now faces Republican Amie Hoeber, a Potomac-based national security consultant in the Nov. 6 general election. The seat is held by U.S. Rep. John Delaney, also of Potomac—who defeated Hoeber in 2016, but who is now relinquishing the slot after three terms to pursue a longshot bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The 200-mile wide 6th District extends from Potomac and Gaithersburg to the western edge of the Maryland panhandle. Like Delaney, both Trone and Hoeber actually reside in the 8th District, just outside the 6th District. The U.S. Constitution requires only that a member of Congress be a resident of the state he or she is seeking to represent, not the specific district.
All told, the Trone campaign during the current election cycle has raised about $16.5 million — all but about $530,000 of this from Trone himself — and has spent $13.4 million. Of the latter amount, $1.53 million was spent from July 1 through Sept. 30, a period during which Trone was undergoing treatment for a cancerous tumor in his urinary tract. He was pronounced cancer-free by his physicians earlier this month after undergoing surgery for removal of a kidney.
Trone’s committee reported nearly $3.1 million in cash on hand as of Oct. 1. According to sources, Trone is prepared to spend up to $1 million a week in the final three weeks of the campaign on TV ads on broadcast stations in the Washington, D.C. market.
Trone’s personal donations have enabled him to outspend Hoeber by more than 20-1. During the 2017-2018 election cycle, Hoeber’s personal campaign has spent about $650,000, while taking in $725,000.
Hoeber — who easily won her party’s 2018 nomination against three thinly funded, largely unknown opponents — is also relying heavily on self-financing, albeit on a considerably smaller scale than Trone. During the third quarter of this year, she contributed $300,000 to her committee, bringing to nearly $420,000 the amount of personal funds she has given her campaign during the 2017-2018 election cycle. She has not made any personal loans to her committee in the current cycle, but her campaign is still carrying about $450,000 in debt from 2016 — all in the form of loans from Hoeber.
While Hoeber’s campaign committee reported just $133,000 in cash on hand as of Oct. 1, she has benefited from $1.15 million in independent expenditures from two so-called “Super PACS” that are promoting her candidacy, according to separate FEC filings. All but $48,000 of this spending has come since she secured the Republican nomination in the June 26 primary.
Unlike legal restrictions placed on personal campaign committees, Super PACS can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals as well as corporations and labor unions. But they are barred by federal law from coordinating their efforts with a candidate’s personal committee.
One independent expenditure committee, the Value In Electing Women Political Action Committee (VIEW PAC) has spent more than $780,000 to boost Hoeber’s candidacy. A majority of the money spent on Hoeber’s behalf by the group—which focuses on electing Republican women to office—has gone for digital advertising and promotion efforts, although $160,000 has been spent on radio ads and another $150,000 on direct mail.
According to VIEW PAC’s latest filings, it has received $400,000 in contributions from Hoeber’s husband, telecommunications executive Mark Epstein. Two years ago, Epstein contributed $3.8 million to another Super PAC, Maryland USA, which promoted Hoeber’s candidacy in her losing bid to oust Delaney.
The other Super PAC spending to support Hoeber’s candidacy is the Defending Main Street Super PAC, Inc., which has spent $375,000 on her behalf, $214,000 for mailings and $161,000 for campaign field work. As of the latest available filings with the FEC, Epstein was not listed as having donated to Defending Main Street, which focuses on electing Republicans in swing or “purple” districts. The Super PAC says that its current members include 65 Republicans now serving in Congress.