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Too much money is too good a problem for Democratic hopefuls

Stephanie Akin, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Record-breaking campaign hauls in House races across the country have left some nominees with an enviable conundrum: How can they possibly spend all the money?

At least 60 House Democratic candidates reportedly raised more than $1 million each in the third quarter of the campaign cycle that ended Sept. 30, eye-popping sums that defy even the most optimistic of projections. But with Nov. 6 less than a month away, some political observers have wondered publicly whether a candidate could have too much cash.

That was the question from the Twitterverse when Roll Call reported last week that Democrat Amy McGrath had raised an astounding $3.65 million in the third quarter -- one of the largest sums reported so far -- in her bid against Republican Rep. Andy Barr in Kentucky's 6th District. "How do you even spend that much money in KY-06?? Wow!" tweeted Alixandria Lapp, president of House Majority PAC, a super PAC tied to House Democratic leadership.

Good campaign managers will know how to manage their money so they have an "arc of spending" throughout the campaign, said Ian Russell, who spent six years with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and now does congressional consulting for Beacon Media.

"We would tell clients, 'It's not worth spending the money at a certain point.' They might as well light a fire with it in the middle of the room," he said. "Hopefully, they have a team that can start spending earlier."

Mike Fraioli, whose firm Fraioli & Associates provides campaign consulting to Democrats, said campaigns rarely make it all the way through their wish lists for spending.

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"If you have that much more money, all your broadcast is covered, now you buy TV Land, the Hallmark Channel," he said. "You just keep going down your list."

He brushed aside concerns that candidates run the risk of "voter fatigue," turning off potential supporters by bombarding them with too many advertisements and face-to-face appeals.

"There is a long list of candidates who would like to have that problem," he said.

And complaints about having too much cash are hard to find.

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