Cameron never came close to matching Beshear campaign’s fundraising

Spending by super PACs narrowed the gap

By: - December 14, 2023 5:50 am

Gov. Andy Beshear delivers his second inaugural address, Dec. 12, 2023, Frankfort. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Arden Barnes)

FRANKFORT — Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s reelection campaign raised and spent more than four times the dollars raised and spent by his Republican challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron in this fall’s general election — a difference that figured in Beshear’s victory.

Reports filed this week by the two campaigns covering fundraising and spending through the Nov. 7 election showed that Beshear raised nearly $19 million and Cameron raised $4.3 million.

Cameron was able to compete on television airwaves during the fall because of advertising bought by conservative super PACs, organizations that operate independently of campaigns and can raise and spend unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, unions and associations. When funding from all sources is counted, about $65 million was spent to woo voters in this year’s race for governor.

Beshear’s campaign built up a massive fundraising lead by starting early — on Oct. 1, 2021 compared to Cameron’s campaign launch of May 26, 2022.  A much bigger advantage was that Beshear drew no serious opponents in the May Democratic primary, while Cameron faced a slew of opponents in the Republican primary.

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron addressed supporters in Louisville on election night, Nov. 7, 2023. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Matthew Mueller)

Cameron won his primary in a landslide, but spent virtually all the $1.5 million he had raised through mid-May. Beshear, meanwhile, was able to roll more than $6 million from his primary fundraising into his general election coffers.

Beshear also reported getting much more support from the Kentucky Democratic Party than Cameron reported getting from the Republican Party of Kentucky.

Beshear’s campaign total includes $3.75 million from the KDP, while Cameron reported getting just under $1 million from the RPK. 

And throughout the primary and general elections Beshear took full advantage of being the incumbent and perceived frontrunner, raising large numbers of contributions from state employees, his appointees to state boards and commissions, state contractors and officials of businesses closely regulated by the state.

The disclosure filed by his campaign this week with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance showed that for the general election Beshear raised $18,970,000.

Of that: $8.8 million came from people, $215,000 from traditional political action committees, $3.7 million in transfers from the Kentucky Democratic Party, and nearly $6.2 million in money rolled into his general election campaign from his primary committee.

Beshear’s campaign reported spending all of it except $113,000 — the campaign’s current cash on hand to pay late expenses.

People are prohibited from giving more than $2,100 to a candidate for state office per election. Among those listed in this week’s report as giving $2,100 to Beshear’s campaign in the final two weeks before the campaign are: James Booth, a coal operator from Inez; Jerry Bruckheimer, the film producer from Encina, California; Jonathan Soros, chief executive of JS Capital Management, of New York; and Lexington architects Les Haney and Albert Gross. University of Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops is listed as giving $1,500.

The Cameron campaign this week reported it took in a final total of nearly $4,350,000 for the general election.

Of that: nearly $3.2 million came in contributions by people, $122,000 from traditional political action committees, and a bit more than $1 million in transfers from the Republican Party of Kentucky and other county GOP committees.

Cameron’s campaign reported having $42,000 in cash on hand to pay the late bills.

Among those listed as giving $2,100 to Cameron during the last two weeks of the campaign are: Louisville entrepreneur Ulysses Bridgeman, Bowling Green attorney Marshall Hughes, and Dallas businessman and real estate developer Ross Perot Jr.

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Tom Loftus
Tom Loftus

Tom Loftus is a native of Cincinnati and a graduate of The Ohio State University. His long career in Kentucky journalism includes four years as Frankfort bureau chief for The Kentucky Post and 32 years as Frankfort bureau chief for The Courier Journal. He is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and a freelance reporter for the Kentucky Lantern.