Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman was recently quoted in OpenSecretsBlog on the topic of the cohesiveness of the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of moderate and conservative Democrats in the House.
The article explains, “But Blue Dog campaign money has stuck to Blue Dogs like ticks on a hound, through thick and thin. Unlike other congressional caucuses rooted in shared ideology, such as the Tea Party Caucus, the Blue Dogs have supported each other financially to an unusual degree. Blue Dog Democrats overall tend to give a disproportionate amount of money to fellow Blue Dogs over other Dems, according to Center for Responsive Politics research.”
“It makes sense for the Blue Dogs to get into a cage, stick together and bark together,” says Deutchman.
The article goes on to note, “Supporting each other financially and through tough elections is ‘one of the ways you keep the caucus going,’ Deutchman tells OpenSecrets Blog. More money means ‘it’s more likely the caucus will continue to stick around.'”
The Blue Dogs are still among the most vulnerable in the country, the article says. In the face of trying to keep the caucus going Deutchman is quoted as saying it could be wise “to give money to potential caucus members.”
Pointing to Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Deutchman says, “It would make sense if some Democratic organizations, and even a caucus, support her.”
Deutchman holds a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University in political science and economics. She is a professor of 20 plus years who has worked on two continents (Australia and North America). She has a long list of publications in major journals, the latest of which are “Electoral Challenges of Moderate Factions: Main Streeters and Blue Dogs, 1994- 2008,” The Forum, Vol. 8: Iss2, Article 2 (2010) (with DeWayne Lucas); “Five Factions, Two Parties: Caucus Membership in the House of Representatives, 1994- 2002,” Congress and the Presidency, 36:62-84, 2009 (with colleague DeWayne Lucas); and “Fundamentalist Christians, Raunch Culture and Post-industrial Capitalism,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Summer 2008.
She has been a senior lecturer and visiting scholar at the University of Melbourne numerous times. Deutchman’s expertise in Australia has been cited in U.S.-based publications as well as in Australia in The Australian, The Age, Australian Time and Arena. Most recently, she taught a graduate course on “President Barack Obama and the World” at the University of Melbourne in Australia in 2010.
The full article follows.
Through Thick and Thin, Blue Dog Money Follows Blue Dog Members
Zachary Newkirk • May 1, 2013
Since its 1995 formation, the caucus of moderate and conservative Democrats in the House known as the Blue Dog Coalition has grown and shrunk. And then shrunk some more.
But Blue Dog campaign money has stuck to Blue Dogs like ticks on a hound, through thick and thin. Unlike other congressional caucuses rooted in shared ideology, such as the Tea Party Caucus, the Blue Dogs have supported each other financially to an unusual degree. Blue Dog Democrats overall tend to give a disproportionate amount of money to fellow Blue Dogs over other Dems, according to Center for Responsive Politics research.
“Blue Dogs have traditionally been a caucus where you can’t say you want to join and just join up,” ex-Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), a former leader of the Blue Dog Coalition and currently a senior adviser to the 21st Century Group, told OpenSecrets Blog. “We’re linked philosophically and by district to the caucus. I think that link leads to how the Blue Dogs act and who they help.”
During the 2012 election cycle, 34 former and current Blue Dogs running for House seats (or who retired that cycle but still received campaign funds prior to their retirement announcement) received $402,747 from other Blue Dogs’ campaign accounts and leadership PACs. An additional 165 non-Blue Dog Democrats received about $507,000, meaning on average Blue Dogs received nearly $12,000 from their caucus colleagues, compared to just $4,500 on average for a non-Blue Dog.
The 2010 Democratic “shellacking” was particularly unkind to the coalition’s electoral clout. Still, while many members in swing districts fell to Republican challengers, that cycle saw tighter caucus cohesiveness. Blue Dogs gave $934,050 to 43 of their caucus colleagues and gave less, $823,836, to 131 non-Blue Dog candidates. In other words, just 25 percent of recipients received 56 percent of Blue Dog money. On average, Blue Dog members received more than twice as much campaign money from other Blue Dogs as non-caucus members.
During the 2008 election cycle, Blue Dogs in the House – those elected in 2006 or earlier – contributed more than $2.4 million to House candidates from their campaign committees and leadership PACs. Nearly $1.2 million of that total, about 50 percent, flowed to only 38 Blue Dog Democrats. The remaining $1.2 million went to 142 other Democratic House candidates.
“They’re different from the average Democrat,” Iva Deutchman, a professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith College told OpenSecrets Blog. And the money shows they give less to the average Democrat.
On average, non-Blue Dogs received $12,918 from caucus members during the 2008 cycle. Meanwhile, the Blue Dogs themselves averaged $31,494 in contributions to each other, nearly two and a half times as much.
Boyd pointed out that caucus cohesiveness during his time as a Blue Dog leader was evidenced by attendance at caucus meetings that never dipped below two-thirds of its membership, a “pretty high number” given the crowded calendars of most lawmakers. “We encouraged our members to be not just a member on a roll,” he said, but to “contribute politically and be active in shaping policy.”
At the height of the group’s strength after the 2008 election, it had 54 members in the House. Now it’s down to just 15 members.
By comparison, during the 2012 election cycle, members of the Tea Party caucus gave just 12 percent of their total contributions to other Tea Party caucus members. Nearly $2.9 million out of more than $3.2 million in contributions went to non-caucus members, suggesting a wider field and more spending on primary races.
“It makes sense for the Blue Dogs to get into a cage, stick together and bark together,” Deutchman said.
But not all of them bark equally loudly. Some current and former members of the caucus raised and doled out significant amounts of money. Ex-Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) gave the most money to fellow Blue Dogs between 2007 and 2012 at $301,500, which was 64 percent of the total he gave to all House candidates. Boyd, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and ex-Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) round out the top four Blue Dogs with the deepest pockets during the last three cycles. At the other end of the scale, two-term Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) contributed just $1,500 to fellow Democrats, none of whom were Blue Dogs.
Boyd himself gave 70 percent of his campaign committee and leadership PAC contributions to fellow Blue Dogs. “We gave to those guys because we had a bond. We wanted to be active in policy so we had to stay in Congress,” he said. “We did everything we could to stick together.”
Of the current members of the Blue Dog Coalition, Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) is the most loyal of any Blue Dog who has given to more than one candidate.Matheson has contributed 83 percent of his $69,200 in donations since 2007 to Blue Dogs.
Supporting each other financially and through tough elections is “one of the ways you keep the caucus going,” Deutchman told OpenSecrets Blog. More money means “it’s more likely the caucus will continue to stick around.”
Still, the strategy doesn’t seem to be working. Blue Dogs remain among some of the Democrats’ most vulnerable seats. Just ask Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, John Barrow of Georgia and Matheson, who all were re-elected with narrow margins.
During the 2012 election cycle, Democratic and left-leaning PACs also assisted the vulnerable Blue Dogs. Both Matheson and Barrow were among the House’s top 12 recipients of PAC contributions.
As for the future of Blue Dog giving, Boyd encourages remaining Blue Dogs in Congress to continue to give to each other to “keep the movement alive.” Deutchman noted it could be wise “to give money to potential caucus members.”
Opportunity may just be around the corner. Deutchman observed that the upcoming special election in South Carolina, pitting former Republican Governor Mark Sanford against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, could be fertile ground for a future Blue Dog. “It would make sense if some Democratic organizations, and even a caucus, support her,” Deutchman said.
Zachary Newkirk is a contributor to OpenSecrets Blog.
Center for Responsive Politics Senior Researcher Doug Weber contributed to this report.