One reason congressional incumbents tend to be hard to beat is their ability to turn their congressional work into campaign cash. A representative with a seat on the right committee or subcommittee can rake in bucks from interest groups with issues at stake before those panels. Challengers or newcomers don’t always have those connections.
But hey, city councils deal with important policy issue stuff, too. Cedar Rapids’ City Council member/1st District Democratic congressional hopeful Monica Vernon’s third-quarter campaign finance disclosure shows that local government connections also can yield campaign cash.
For instance, Vernon received $500 during the quarter from John Frew, who has given her campaign $1,000 total this year. Of course, Frew Development Group oversaw the city’s big Convention Complex/U.S. Cellular Center project and is now the driving force behind efforts to redevelop Westdale Mall, with city help. Frew is also served as chief of staff for Gov. Chet Culver, so it’s no surprise he’s interested in congressional politics.
Vernon also took in $2,600 from Steve Gray, lead investor of the proposed Cedar Crossing Casino in Cedar Rapids, which has received strong city backing. Fellow casino investor Drew Skogman donated $500, bringing his total donations to Vernon’s campaign this year to $1,500.
Joe Ahmann, a local developer who received city TIF incentives for construction of an upscale office/retail project along Blairs Ferry Road called “The Fountains,” donated $1,000 to Vernon’s campaign.
Randi Peters, VP for community relations at VenuWorks, the firm that manages the U.S. Cellular Center, Paramount Theater and the ice arena, also donated $1,000.
Vernon’s contributor list also has a bipartisan feel. She received $500 from former Republican state Rep. Jeff Elgin and $1,000 from John Bloomhall, president and CEO of Diamond V Mills, who backed Mitt Romney during the 2012 cycle.
Vernon also received a $500 contribution from Iowa women’s hoops coach Lisa Bluder. Go Hawks!
These are hardly massive campaign contributions. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong or improper going on. This is what congressional candidates do. They shake money trees, vigorously, because they’ll need a ton of bucks to win a primary and general election in a large district. Her opponents are doing the same. Vernon has raised nearly $225,000 so far, which puts her in the thick of the 1st District money race.
But it’s interesting stuff. And good to know. That’s the beauty of public disclosure.