Show Me The Money – A Three Part Series / Warner’s fundraising prowess

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In politics, it’s often all about the money. And if that maxim holds true in this year’s Virginia Senate race, former Gov. Mark Warner (D) can start designing his Senate letterhead now.

Warner’s (D) Senate campaign disclosed his personal fi

nances last week, revealing Warner’s immense personal fortune. Warner, a former business executive and early investor in several cellular phone companies including Nextel, has amassed a net worth of between $88 and $390 million.

Warner’s Public Financial Disclosure Report, which he filed with the Senate Committee on Ethics, allows for broad monetary ranges. Warner has previously stated his personal worth is approximately $200 million.

The report reflects Warner’s real estate holdings, cash and several investments that were held in a blind trust when he was elected governor in 2001. After leaving office in 2006, Warner was made aware of his investments, which are almost entirely handled by investment firms. 

 One investment account with Cooke Bieler reveals a whole spectrum of stock holdings, including Anheuser Busch, Exxon Mobil, Johnson and Johnson, McDonald’s and Microsoft, among others.

“The aim of the trust managers has been to invest Governor Warner’s assets in a diversified and balanced way,” said Kevin Hall, Warner’s campaign spokesman. “The assets have been invested in a portfolio that reflects a risk and return profile that is appropriate for an individual of the Governor’s financial circumstances, and that is consistent with similar investment trusts.”

Warner could turn to his personal fortune should his race with former Gov. Jim Gilmore tighten. “If the campaign actually got competitive and Warner needs a boost, he has the personal resources to hugely outspend his opponent,” said Mark Rozell, a Professor at George Mason’s School of Public Policy. Rozell noted that Warner spent $10 million of his own money in his 1996 Senate race against Sen. John Warner (R), which made the race closer than many expected.

Rozell doesn’t see Warner having to do that in this campaign. “My guess is that he won’t have to dip into his fortune this time, that he will raise and spend enough to run the kind of campaign he wants to wage,” he said.

Warner’s financial disclosure didn’t surprise the Gilmore campaign, which has taken to calling Warner the “200 Million Dollar Man.”
 
“We know he’s rich,” said Ana Gamonal, Gilmore’s campaign spokesman. “We knew that from before. We didn’t need a financial filing to tell us how rich he is.”

The Gilmore campaign has sought to take advantage of Warner’s finances, saying his wealth separates him from voters. “He is so out of touch with what the average Virginian goes through to pay their bills,” Gamonal said.

Gilmore disclosed his own personal finances during his presidential bid earlier this year. After seeking and receiving a 30-day extension from the Federal Election Commission, Gilmore revealed a significant net worth of several million dollars, but nothing close to Warner’s.
 
Like Warner, Gilmore’s portfolio included investments in Exxon Mobil, Microsoft and Johnson and Johnson. He also holds stock in eBay, Chevron Kraft Foods, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Dominion Resources, the Richmond-based energy company.

Should Warner win the Senate seat in November, he would replace one of the Senate’s richest members and join another one. Sen. John Warner, who has usually ranks among the Senate’s richest members, reported between $3.6 and $7.7 million in assets last year. Sen. Jim Webb (D) surprised many last year when he disclosed $2.3 and $7.6 million in asset. That amount reflected earnings from his numerous books and a possible movie deal.

But if the fundraising totals from the last quarter are any indication, Warner likely won’t have to dip into that fortune to vastly outspend Gilmore. Warner reported $2.7 million in contributions during the final quarter of 2007 and a whopping $2.8 million in cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission. Gilmore reported just $348,453 in contributions, all carried over from his defunct presidential bid, and $183,453 cash on hand.

“The difference in fundraising is no surprise, especially given the conventional wisdom that Warner is almost unbeatable,” Rozell said. “Many contributors want access to those in power, so the incentive is to give money to the likely winner. Right now, that looks like Warner.”

The Gilmore campaign never expected to compete with Warner in fundraising, focusing instead on raising just enough money to run a scrappy insurgent campaign. “We’ve known from the beginning that this was going to be a David and Goliath type struggle,” Gamonal said. “Our goal is not to out raise him. Our goal is to raise enough money to implement our campaign plan.”

“Where we are looking to compete with him is at the polls,” she added.

If Gilmore can stay competitive, Rozell said, he will see a boost in fundraising, but never to the same level as Warner. “Gilmore won’t be able to keep pace financially with Warner in this campaign,” he said. “So the question is whether he can raise enough to run a reasonably competitive campaign. That’s hard to tell right now, but if the polls eventually show a somewhat competitive race, he will then raise a lot more money. But he will never catch up to Warner in fundraising.”

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