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Out Here: Raising $1M without focusing?

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 11:56 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 7:54 p.m. CDT

Shortly before 10 a.m. Monday, I received a news release from Congresswoman Cheri Bustos' re-election campaign announcing that she had raised more than $1 million in 2013.

I was interested in the news, particularly because the East Moline Democrat has provided little information before about her fundraising efforts. I called her campaign office within 10 minutes, asking to speak with campaign manager Jeremy Jansen, who was quoted in the release.

An aide took down my phone number and email address. 

An hour later, Jansen sent me an email: "Hey David, I got a message from you. Do you have some questions about the release?"

I did. 

Among the questions I emailed Jansen:

• What percentage of the money came from inside the district?

"The formal report with that information is still being finalized but will be available publicly at the end of the month."

• How many fundraising calls did Ms. Bustos make, say, in a week?

"The congresswoman shares the frustration of the public as it relates to campaign finance, which is why she’s backed several reform measures that would change this reality."

• Did she have any fundraiser events?

"Her re-election campaign, as is common with all campaigns, has historically held events for supporters throughout her district."

The evidence shows that congressmen of both parties spend plenty of time fundraising. We'd like to give readers a peek into the workdays of someone they send to Washington to represent their interests. 

Huffington Post has reported that members of Congress often make their fundraising calls in an office of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or in a similar one at the headquarters of the National Republican Congressional Committee. It's illegal to seek campaign cash from congressional offices.

"Time spent fundraising is time not spent on the people's business," Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told Politico in 2010. 

This is apparently not part of Bustos' Washington experience that she likes to talk about. I've asked her about it before. In an interview a few months ago, she acknowledged making fundraising calls, but wouldn't estimate how many. 

Bustos, whose district includes Whiteside County, said she gets donations from her former boss and family. That sounds great, but she doesn't mention the thousands of dollars she gets from the same special interests that shower nearly all incumbents and viable challengers with money.

Her predecessor and opponent, Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, said he makes about 10 to 20 fundraising calls a day.

When he announced his plan to run again in July, Bustos issued a statement saying she was focused on creating jobs and protecting Social Security and Medicare, not on an election more than a year away.

That's what incumbents often say when challengers emerge. But if it's true that Bustos raised more than $1 million without focusing on her campaign, that's quite impressive. 

David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at dgiuliani@saukvalley.com or 800-798-4085, ext. 525. Follow him on Twitter: @DGiuliani_SVM.

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