The corrosive impact of money in politics is something Democrats have fought against -- and rued -- for decades. But politicians know full well that without a steady stream of hard cash coming into their coffers, attaining and keeping power is an increasingly difficult enterprise. And Democrats, for their part, have mastered the art.
Take, for example, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (D-TX). Capitalizing on her newfound fame after filibustering a late-term abortion ban bill last year, she’s traveled extensively outside of Texas and done rather well for herself. She’s raised millions of dollars out-of-state, according to the Associated Press, even outraising her Republican opponent Greg Abbott by a breathtaking margin:
Hollywood loves stars and loves an underdog, and Democrat Wendy Davis is both. At a recent rooftop fundraiser hosted by Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg at the Bad Robot film studios near Los Angeles, she socked away more money for what could be a financially record-shattering race for Texas governor.
Likewise, in Manhattan brownstones, Silicon Valley mansions and Washington hotels, Davis has told her compelling personal story of rising from a trailer park to Harvard Law and reeled in donors. She now has financial backers in every U.S. state and has collected nearly four times as much — at least $3.6 million — from outside Texas as her opponent, Republican Greg Abbott.
Of course, both candidates have received most of their donations from in-state residents. There is, however, a significant disparity in out-of-state fundraising totals between the candidates:
Her campaign crows about an impressive 133,600 individual donors she has enlisted in raising at least $16 million, which approaches the $17 million Abbott has raised since last summer. More than one in every four dollars to Davis has come from out of state. More than 90 percent of Abbott's haul is home-state money.
"Republicans have such a strong base here in Texas," said Roy Bailey, a top Republican fundraiser in Dallas. "If you're looking out of state, it just tells you there's something fundamentally wrong with where you're running."
Polls consistently show Team Davis struggling to make the race competitive. Democrats, meanwhile, haven’t controlled the governor’s mansion in the Lone Star State for two decades. In other words, Texas is about as red as it gets, and therefore solid fundraising efforts can and will only get Democratic candidates so far.
They’ll need to win over hearts and minds, of course, which is something Davis and her team might find increasingly hard to do spending so much time fundraising outside the state.