Thursday, September 09, 2004

Lies, Damn Lies, and Hyman-istics

They say there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. That’s certainly true when the statistics are coming out of Mark Hyman’s mouth. According to Hyman, Democrats are the party of deep pockets, big spenders, and privileged special interests, while the Republicans are the party of the everyday working man. His evidence? A study by the Center for Responsive Politics that showed that during the 2002 congressional election cycle, the GOP received more in small-amount donations than did Democrats.

True enough. But what he doesn’t tell you is that the Republican fundraising machine raised more cash at all donation levels except the very top, where a handful of extremely large donations to democrats skewed the results. Also keep in mind that 2002 didn’t involve a national election, and certain races (particularly senate races) prompted donations that reflected a wealth/ideology link representative of only a particular state (and again, even these more local links aren’t particularly strong). Lastly, these large contributions, as big as they were, amounted to a small fraction of the total haul for either Democrats or Republicans.

The reason Hyman touts this study is precisely because the results show an unusual spike in large donations at the very top level of giving for Democrats. He claims it’s simply because 2002 is the last election cycle for which we have complete data.

Perhaps so, but we’re certainly far enough along in the 2004 race to get a broader view of donation demographics than the 2002 race afforded. Not surprisingly, current data (again, from the
Center for Responsive Politics) through the end of August shows that Kerry (and other Democrats) get more money from small donations than does Bush.

Specifically, more than half the contributions that have gone to the Bush/Cheney ticket have been for $2000 or more. Only a third of Kerry/Edwards donations fall into that category. In raw numbers, Bush gets more than twice as many $2000+ donations as Kerry. In the “Everyman” category of $200 or less, 35% of Kerry’s donations come this demographic, while only 28% of Bush contributions are in amounts of under $200. The leaders in small contributions this past election cycle are Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, with 61% and 70% of their donations coming in these small amounts, respectively. This suggests at least a loose correlation between liberal political stances and the amount of money one receives in small donations, completely contrary to Hyman’s.

The advent of internet donations, largely thanks to Howard Dean, has helped Democrats make up for the long-time advantage Republicans have enjoyed in fundraising, not because of their policies, but because of their well-oiled mail solicitation machine. Now that it’s easier than ever to give in small increments, campaign donations (at least in terms of the number of small vs. large donations) are beginning to reflect the policies of the parties more accurately. That’s not good for a president who has overseen a systematic shift of the tax burden from the wealthy onto the middle class.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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