WASHINGTON, June 1, 2023 – OpenSecrets has released a groundbreaking new report titled “The Nationalization of Political Contributions and the Rising Role of Out-of-State Donations.” The report explores the growing trend of political donors and activists paying attention to races beyond their home states, highlighting the impact of out-of-state contributions on political campaigns.
“All politics is local, but OpenSecrets also finds that the inverse is true: all politics is increasingly national. While a donor might not expect a candidate from Vermont to help fill potholes down the road, they may justifiably see that the same candidate might cast a decisive vote on a tax bill or health care package with far-reaching implications,” said OpenSecrets Research Director Sarah Bryner, who authored the report.
The 2021 merger of the National Institute on Money in Politics and the Center for Responsive Politics has made it possible for OpenSecrets to provide more extensive analysis of contribution data for the state as well as federal level, enabling the identification of trends in how much candidates rely on money from outside of their districts or states.
A recent Supreme Court race in Wisconsin is a prime example of the growing nationalization of state and local political races. In this race, winner Janet Protasiewicz outraised her conservative opponent Daniel Kelly by a five-to-one margin, with over $2.6 million of her $14 million fundraising haul coming from out-of-state donors.
As federal races have become increasingly expensive, federal candidates have generally relied less and less on money from inside their states.
Overall, the percent of money candidates get from in-state donors – those who likely have the ability to vote for the candidate to whom they’re donating – has fallen since the beginning of the millennium.
Republicans are more reliant on in-state money than Democrats, according to OpenSecrets data, although the gap has narrowed in recent years.
OpenSecrets found that not all candidates need to seek out-of-state fundraising. Candidates with a low rate of out-of-state donors may still be popular within their home states or face unique circumstances in the general election. Additionally, candidates from larger states and those who are perceived as long-shot contenders tend to rely heavily on in-state donors.
A low rate of out-of-state donors doesn’t always correlate with a candidate’s popularity in their home state or necessarily mean that they will have an easier time in the general election. Of the candidates who raise the most money from out-of-state donors – typically more than 90% of their total raised – most come from smaller states.
Out-of-state money has been slower to enter state races. In the aggregate, the lion’s share of money going into statewide races has remained local to that state.