AUSTIN, Texas — Now that the latest campaign finance reports have been posted, an examination of State Senator Wendy Davis’ records shows that, once again, she has artificially inflated her fundraising totals. On October 6, the San Antonio Express-News reported that “Davis, through the various political action committees, will report raising $6.8 million in cash and another $1 million through in-kind contribution for the roughly three-month period.” However, once the campaign finance reports were made public, the contributions actually directly received by the Davis campaign totaled only $3.6 million. Davis had reached the higher number by counting outside committees, in-kind contributions that are easily inflated in value, and multiple transfers between committees.
According to the Texas Tribune, an “apples-to-apples comparison with Davis [to Attorney General Greg Abbott’s campaign] is virtually impossible because of the numerous transfers and non-cash ‘in-kind’ donations in her report.” The Tribune reported an additional $2.4 million was donated to the Texas Victory Committee, a separate committee that splits its funds between the Davis campaign and Battleground Texas, which took in several hundred thousand dollars as well. Although Battleground Texas and the Texas Victory Committee will likely use a significant portion of their resources in ways that benefit the Davis campaign, they are separate legal entities and are not obligated to do so.
On this latest report, Davis’ reported in-kind contributions totaled over $2 million, including over $1 million from Battleground Texas. This type of contribution is valued by their contributor at the time of contribution, and little to no effort has been made historically to verify the value of such contributions, especially when they are in the form of services. In the case of Battleground Texas, that group has been engaged in voter registration and outreach efforts across the state that will presumably benefit more Democratic candidates than just Davis.
This is not the first time Davis used creative math to describe her fundraising. Back in July, Davis had claimed that she had $13.1 million cash-on-hand at the end of that reporting period, but the actual reports showed she only had $12.8 million at the end of June, a difference of $300,000. At that time, Davis was also counting contributions received by the Texas Victory Committee and Battleground Texas when touting her fundraising totals, as well as including over half a million dollars in in-kind contributions. Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch dismissed Davis’ July finance report as a “sham,” saying that it “uses fuzzy math and Enron-style accounting to artificially inflate her cash on hand and obscure the fact that a large number of the contributions she claims are not made directly to her campaign.”
Davis has actually been promoting her fundraising this way throughout the campaign. Back in January, she added $3.5 million raised by the Texas Victory Committee to the $8.7 million her campaign had raised to come up with a total that was greater than the $11.5 million raised by Abbott, who was only counting money his campaign took in directly.
Regardless of how Davis counts her money, there is one number that should be giving her headaches: thirty million. That is how much cash on hand Abbott still has as the candidates enter the final month of the race, dwarfing Davis’ war chest — and that of her supportive committees — several times over.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker