‘Very Disturbing’: Watchdog Finds Fundraising Surges for Secretary of State Candidates in Swing State

‘Very Disturbing’: Watchdog Finds Fundraising Surges for Secretary of State Candidates in Swing State
A voter leaves after filling out a ballot at the Beltrami County Administration building in Bemidji, Minn., on Sept. 18, 2020. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen
Fundraising has spiked for candidates running for secretary of state in the key swing states of Georgia, Michigan, and Minnesota compared to past cycles, according to a new report.
The report, released on Wednesday by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, showed that campaign donations across the three states so far, based on preliminary data, is 2.5 times higher than it was at the same point in either of the past two election cycles.

“These are traditionally very sleepy elections. These are bureaucrats no one cares about,” said Ian Vandewalker, a senior counsel at the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and a co-author of the report.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School is a nonprofit law and public policy institute, and is named after Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan. 

Secretary of state positions in swing states hold substantial power in determining how votes are certified.

Vandewalker said, “Controlling who’s running the elections is potentially a route to winning the elections.”

In the states of Georgia and Michigan, which were crucial to President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, secretary of state candidates have received 2.5 times more campaign donations than they had at a similar point in the previous two election cycles, according to the Brennan Center’s analysis.

The report states that the same pattern is being observed in Minnesota, although the amounts raised in there are much smaller. 
“These elections will determine who is in charge of running and making key decisions about our elections in 2024. Put simply, what we are seeing so far is very disturbing,” co-author Lawrence Norden said in a Twitter thread of the findings. 

“A sign of the new high profile of these contests can be seen in the fundraising data. In the Secretary of State contests where data is available, candidates have raised 2.5x more money than those at the same stage in 2018,” Norden explained.

“And there are early signs these contests are getting nationalized. In the Georgia SoS election, 22% of funding in the latest campaign finance filings cam [sic] from out of state donors,” he added. “That’s a huge increase from the full cycles in 2014 and 2018.”

Data available so far suggests that the United States will see record amounts of money in election administrator contests this year, the report suggests.

“Candidates in the great majority of the states in question will submit new filings at the end of January, so more information will be available soon,” Vandewalker and Norden noted.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, Democrats are looking at ways to push through their preferred election rule reforms, such as proposals to expand the period for early voting and banning states from requiring an excuse to vote absentee, without bipartisan support. 
Biden has said he is prepared to eliminate the Senate’s filibuster—a safeguard which requires 60 of the 100 senators to agree on legislation—if need, be to pass the reform measures opposed by Republicans.
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
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