North City and North County
U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay is one of the most veteran politicians in Missouri, but when it comes to raising money for re-election, he’s also one of the least prolific.
He doesn’t need a dime.
It’s not on purpose, Clay said in an interview, but more of a “structural problem” that speaks to how the campaign money game in Washington is played. And he says he’s proven he can raise less money than an opponent and still win.
Because almost all of the blacks on the Missouri side of the St. Louis area are drawn into his district. That’s even more so in this decade’s version of his district, as Missouri went down from nine to eight Congressional districts.
According to Federal Election Commission reports, Clay’s was second-lowest amount of cash on hand among Missouri’s 10 congressional members as of July 1, with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City, showing roughly $142,000.
Beaver Cleaver is another one that doesn’t need a dime, for much the same reason. Though his MO-5 has a lot more whites in it than Clay’s MO-1, Cleaver only won last year 52-45, and that was faced with a red wave that will probably never be topped. But it means that Cleaver may not win his biennial races with landslide margins like Clay does, he still does win, in spite of my prediction when the map was finalized in 2011 that Cleaver’s new MO-5 could really put him at severe risk of losing if the red wave was tall enough.
Clay says he has trouble raising money from Political Action Committees because he represents a “safe” Democratic seat, even though he serves on the Financial Services Committee, whose members often get showered with financial donations from the banking and other financial industries.
“How come they’re not bribing me?” Because you’re not smart enough to be of value to the people who hand out bribes, Lazy.
“The money has never been an issue, it is how you use it. And I think I use it in a most effective way because I still believe in old-fashioned politics. I know I have to mix technology in there, but we still go door-to-door, we still touch people, we do phone banking, all of that.” —Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis.
No, your people don’t even go door to door. You just rely on them remembering that you’re black and that your last name is Clay and therefore also the same as your eponymous father who held MO-1 for 32 years.
In contrast, Dick Gephardt was one the fund raising champions when he represented St. Louis and vicinity in Congress, but he’s another one who never needed a dime of it. Not necessarily because of the district, but because of the local media fawning over him and giving him unbeatable name recognition. Of course, Gephardt’s district no longer exists, and you know why.