Here’s today’s candidate for one of the 10 most overlooked bookmarks on OpenSecrets.org, the website that tracks money in federal elections:
This particular page will give you a glimpse into the amount of money members of Congress have already stockpiled for their 2006 reelection campaigns. If you were thinking of running for Congress this year, a warning: you may find this information frightening. Even if you’re not running, you may find it depressing – at least if you’re a fan of competitive elections.
House incumbents, the page reveals, have an average of nearly $600,000 already in the bank, with six months of fundraising still ahead. Republicans have slightly more than that on average; Democrats have slightly less. But to the funding community – the people who actually supply the money it takes to run a campaign these days – party affiliation matters far less than incumbency. If you’re in, you’re in. If you’re not, you’ve got miles of fundraising ahead of you to even reach the radar screens of the PAC directors, lobbyists, and other strategic givers who are always ready to put up money for a sure bet.
Unfortunately for newcomers, giving money to incumbents is as sure a bet as you can find anywhere these days. Reelection rates for the House of Representatives are so high – 98% in 2004 – that after death and taxes, there are few things in life more certain. Especially when the guys on the inside have already got $600 thou in the bank half a year before election day.