WASHINGTON – Rep. Steny Hoyer had almost $370,000 in cash on hand for his 2004 re-election bid, a campaign war chest that one expert said could make it “very difficult” for any Republican seeking to challenge the 10-term incumbent.
According to the most recent campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, the 5th District Democrat raised more than $417,000 in the first six months of this year and spent more than $297,000. With money left over from previous campaigns, he had $368,031 in the bank as of June 30.
“When a challenger enters a race down $300,000 or more from their opponent, it makes it very difficult to catch up,” said Steven Weiss of the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics.
Weiss said incumbents tend to raise as much money as possible early on to discourage opponents and make it daunting for others to enter the race.
But while no one has filed yet to run against Hoyer, Republicans expect to announce a candidate by September, said Eric Sutton, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.
How much money a Republican candidate would need to raise in order to be a viable competitor for Hoyer will depend largely on who the candidate is, said Sutton.
“Of course he (Hoyer) has a lot of money,” Sutton said. “The congressman is in bed with a lot of special interests.”
Sutton said contributions from trial lawyers and political action committees have played a large role in financing Hoyer’s campaign.
A spokeswoman for Hoyer, Katie Elbert, said his office would not respond to Sutton’s statement.
Hoyer’s campaign does rely relatively heavily on contributions from PACs, according to his latest FEC filing. It said he has received contributions from 114 different PACs since April. Since January, the campaign taken in about $314,000 from such committees.
Weiss said that the average member of Congress finances about 40 percent of his or her campaign with PAC contributions, whereas Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, has about 75 percent of his campaign financed by PACs.
“He certainly has a high proportion of money coming from PACs,” said Weiss. He said that may be due to Hoyer’s leadership role in Congress, which would mean industries do not view his vote as having geographic limitations.
“This signifies he appeals to industry and issue initiatives across the country,” he said.
But Weiss also noted that the average federal campaign last year got about 7 percent of its PAC money from labor groups. The Center for Responsive Politics said more than four times that amount — about 31 percent — of Hoyer’s PAC money this year has come from labor.
Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, downplayed the significance of fund raising in the race, saying Hoyer’s bank account will not make or break his campaign.
“I don’t think it matters,” White said. “Steny Hoyer’s so popular that people look for his name on the ballot,” he said.