Washington Watch: Landrieu, Cassidy compare campaign finances

Tuesday was a red-letter day for the political number crunchers: The deadline for U.S. House and Senate candidates to file their campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission for the April-June reporting period, when campaigns for the fall elections are gaining momentum.

And it’s all available online, for ready conversion to spreadsheets at the click of a mouse — or at least that’s true eventually, in the case of candidates for the U.S. Senate: While House candidates were required to file electronically by midnight Tuesday night, Senate candidates had the option of mailing in a hard-copy filing, with a postmark on or before the 15th.

So it was with the campaigns of Republicans Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness and Democrat Mary Landrieu for the Senate seat how held by Landrieu, which is on the ballot in Louisiana this fall. But their lack of online data didn’t stop the Cassidy and Landrieu campaigns from rushing into the informational breach Tuesday (Maness, a retired Air Force colonel from Mandeville, beat them to the punch when he announced June 23 that he had raised a total of more than $1 million for his campaign).

Cassidy, a congressman from Baton Rouge, emphasized the amount of money he has available to spend in the rest of the campaign and his fundraising success relative to other Republican candidates in the past. His $5.8 million in cash on hand as of June 30 puts him in a strong position, the Cassidy campaign said.

Cassidy supporters also made much of the fact that, although his amount on hand is less than Landrieu’s $6.24 million, he had closed the cash-on-hand gap since the March 31 end of the previous reporting period. And the $1.6 million Cassidy took in for the April-June period sets a record for that quarter for Republican candidates for in Louisiana seeking federal office, his campaign said.

For its part, the Landrieu campaign touted her haul of $2.15 million in the reporting period, her best total of any quarter in the lead-up to the election this year.

Landrieu’s campaign also suggested that the two campaigns’ figures don’t provide an apples-to-apples comparison because of how contributions are designated.

On Nov. 4, voters will choose among Cassidy, Landrieu, Maness and anyone else, regardless of party, who files qualifying papers by the Aug. 22 deadline to run for the Senate. Any candidate getting more than half the total vote on Nov. 4 wins the election; but if no candidate wins a majority, the top two finishers will meet in a runoff Dec. 6.

Federal law sets limits on the amount that can be given by a contributor to a candidate per election, and when a campaign receives a contribution, the money is designated as applying to a specific election. Cassidy has received a number of contributions — totaling more than $250,000 through March 31 — that are designated specifically for the Dec. 6 runoff and cannot be spent until after Nov. 4, and must be returned if there is no runoff (the Cassidy campaign provided only a summary for the April-June period, so up-to-date figures are not available).

All of the money Landrieu has raised can be spent before Nov. 4 because none of it has been designated for the runoff, her campaign says — a statement backed up by the online records through April 30 and by a sampling of the itemized contributions on a facsimile of the complete July 15 report provided by her campaign. If she has money left over on Nov. 4, she can roll it forward to the runoff campaign, under FEC rules.

In Louisiana, the FEC recognizes the Aug. 22 qualifying deadline as an election, along with the Nov. 4 and Dec. 6 balloting, for a total of three elections in the complete cycle.

Individuals are limited to contributing $2,600 per election, or a total of $7,800 for the cycle. Through March 31, more than 60 individual contributors to the Cassidy campaign had maxed out at $7,800 each — but none of Landrieu’s contributors had donated more than $4,900, meaning that, in the event of a runoff, she can go back to all of them and ask for more money.

Cassidy’s supporters say none of that matters because the election is almost certainly headed to a runoff.

Gregory Roberts is chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email address is groberts@theadvocate.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregRobertsDC