Rodney Davis campaign spending increased from ‘feeling pressure’, analyst says

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US House Office of Photography

Rodney Davis's most recent official photograph.

During the 2017-2018 election cycle, Republican U.S. Congressman Rodney Davis’s campaign spent $4,085,715. 

That was a increase of $1,651,389, in comparison to his $2,394,440 expenditures during the 2015-2016 election cycle.  

Kent Redfield, retired political science professor at the University of Illinois Springfield who specialized in campaign finance, said Davis increased his campaign spending because he was feeling pressure in his campaign.

“Four million dollars indicates a very competitive election, and if you look at the numbers for Davis’s opponent in 2018 Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, she actually spent a little bit more than he did, about 4.2 million,” said Redfield. “When you get to the 2018 midterm, the party opposite the president usually picks up some seats because normally there’s a surge in the president’s party during the presidential election.”

Redfield said Londrigan was able to attract a lot of money and the Democrats essentially were trying to flip three seats in Illinois. 

“They were successful with two and came very close with Londrigan,” he said.

Davis’s top disbursements during the 2017-2018 cycle were to Strategic Media Services, Gula Graham Group, Illinois Republican Party, Palomar Marketing and Productions and PNC Bank.

Davis’s top disbursements during the 2015-2016 cycle were almost identical to 17-18, they were to Strategic Media Services, FP1 Digital LLC, Gula Graham Group, Illinois Republican Party and something labeled “Other Committee”.

His top expenditure for 2017-2018 was $1,946,888 and for 2015-2016 it was $475,482. 

Most of Davis’s top expenditures are to agencies that help campaigns with advertising. Redfield said that advertising is what politicians spend their money on the most because getting the loyal voters to the poll is arguably the most important step to getting elected.

“It is about getting the message to the faithful and getting the faithful to the polls… The basics haven’t changed,” said Redfield. “You want to identify the base, turn them out and energize them, but you also want to be able to identify swing voters.”

His campaign also mislabeled some of the expenditures from that cycle. There is $214,276 worth of fundraising consulting payment and $102,253 worth of payment for fundraising “consultanting”.

Some expenditures from 2017-2018 campaign expenditures included $5,000 on baseball tickets to McCarthy Advanced Consulting, a primary 2016 contribution refund of $1,000, $563 on Green Bay Packers football tickets for a fundraising event, and $250 on event baseball tickets. 

There are rules that control what kinds of disbursements campaigns can make and they have to submit a yearly report on how they’ve spent their money. The reports are overseen by the Federal Election Commission. 

The FEC website says, “Campaign funds to be used for purposes in connection with the campaign to influence the federal election of the candidate. Disbursements related to the campaign include payments for day-to-day expenses, such as staff salaries, rent, travel, advertising, telephones, office supplies and equipment, fundraising, etc.”

Among non-campaign expenses, ones for personal use are prohibited. Some others like fundraising for other candidates, committees and organizations are allowed but controlled by the FEC’s contribution limit.

Of the top 10 expenditures during the 2015-2016 election cycle, half of them carried over to the top 10 for 2017-2018: Communication, digital, fundraising consulting, media placement (Advertising – broadcasting, cable, and radio) and salary. 

Communication consulting dropped by $29,874 to $81,692 between the two cycles. 

The other four categories of spending increased. Salary expenditures rose by $94,202 to $174,889 and digital consulting went up by $74,187 to $193,006. 

Fundraising consulting went up by $360,354 to $574,631. Media placement went up by $1,468,277 from to $1,946,888.

Of the five campaign expenditures from 2015-2016 that did not carry over to the top 10 for 2017-2018, three of them remain. TV and Radio ads are labeled under “media placement”, although there is a radio ad that is ranked 86th on the list with $600. 

Davis’s campaign did not respond to comment.

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