Digging into Campaign Finance Records

by Niki Kelly, Indiana Capital Chronicle

When campaign finance deadlines hit, journalists dig into the reports for the key numbers: who raised the most, and how much do they have left in their coffers? But there are tons of smaller interesting details to be found as well.

Did you know the Hoosier PAC affiliated with — and giving hundreds of thousands to U.S. Sen. Mike Braun’s gubernatorial campaign — is located in Wisconsin? Or that Secretary of State Diego Morales has spent more than $2,800 at the J.W. Marriott downtown?

The governor’s race has raised more than $5.3 million this year — and $12.6 million overall. That includes totals for 2021 and 2022, as candidates have entered the race at different times.

And we have more than a year to go.

The vast majority of that money is coming from the Republican side, as at least five candidates are vying for the nomination.

Could it be the most expensive Indiana governor’s race ever? When counting the primary, possibly. But I’m not sure it will eclipse the $33 million that Republican Mitch Daniels and Democrat Joe Kernan spent in 2004.

Here are a few other key takeaways from the reports:

Eric Holcomb raised only a few dollars. After all, he is term-limited and isn’t running for anything else. But he spent about $321,000, with $1 million left in the bank. Interestingly, he did some polling in June. Yep, just last month, he paid nearly $40,000 to survey Hoosiers about something. And he also paid $42,000 to Colbert Consulting for some consulting work. Perhaps he is trying to figure out who to endorse in the race to replace him?

Attorney General Todd Rokita raised $374,000 for his 2024 re-election bid. But if you look closely, the majority of that — at least $250,000 — comes from out-of-state donors. For instance, Jerald Block and Robert Salim, two attorneys in Louisiana, each gave $25,000. He is also spending a lot of money: $173,000 so far this year. Included in that spending was almost $20,000 for “event expenses” in Utah with Avventure Collective. The company’s website says it provides luxury adventure travel packages: “Epic Adventures. Luxury Accommodations. Unforgettable Experiences.” Think skiing, hiking and flyfishing.

Morales spent about $1,000 in registration fees and insurance on a campaign vehicle that has caused controversy. Importantville’s Adam Wren noted the expenditures on Twitter, recalling that Morales had promised to sell the $43,000 Toyota RAV4 that he bought during his 2022 campaign. The three GOP governor frontrunners are spending a lot on consulting. Braun gave Daniels Spaulding Consulting LLC $194,000 so far this year. The company is a “full-service fundraising, consulting and event planning firm,” according to LinkedIn. Braun also paid Mark It Red about $65,000 for polling and consulting.

Similarly, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch has spent around $240,000 on consulting this year and Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden about $194,000 — spread across various companies.

Campaign finance filings are based on the promise of transparency.

But Hoosiers must look past just the total dollars raised and spent to be truly transparent. For instance, you can learn a lot about candidates and their fiscal responsibility. Will they spend your tax dollars the same way they spend campaign donations?

So take a few minutes or hours, and comb through reports for state races that interest you the most. And shoot me a tip if you find something good.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Indiana Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Niki Kelly for questions: Follow Indiana Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

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Various authors from around the world whose truth-seeking mission aligns with Middletown Media and Muncie Voice. Academics, government servants, award-winning journalists, authors, and celebrity guests have contributed. We also receive press releases and opinion letters.

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