Elizabeth Warren campaign goes into debt


The senator-elect and former Penn Law prof received large financial support from Penn employees




Senator-elect and former Law School professor Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.) revealed in a fundraising email that her campaign has gone into debt despite record fundraising numbers.

Warren raised a total of about $42 million in her contentious race for the Massachusetts senate seat against one-term incumbent Republican Scott Brown — more than any other congressional candidate. At a combined total of $68 million, the race was the most expensive in the country.

Warren’s total fundraising put her among the top five most successful congressional fundraisers of all time.

She defeated Brown with 53.7 percent of the vote to his 46.3.

Warren has received significant financial support from University employees. She is so far the fifth-highest recipient of employee political donations at $18,110, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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The senator-elect began teaching at Penn Law in 1987, where she won the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1994. She taught at Harvard Law School as a visiting faculty member for a year in 1992 and eventually left Penn to join Harvard’s full-time faculty in 1995.

The Warren campaign’s email attributed the debt to the number of volunteers that showed up for the campaign’s ‘Get-Out-the-Vote’ efforts.

“But even our high expectations were shattered. Thousands more volunteers showed up — and that meant even more last-minute coffee and pizza,” read the email. “One of the results of our embarrassment of riches was, well I’ll come out and say it — we ended up with a little bit of debt.”

The email went on to implore supporters to donate to the campaign to help get it out of the red.

“We need a little more money to pay off our final bills,” it said. “Can you help one more time?”

The expense of the Warren-Brown race was born in many ways from how contentious it was.

“Defeating Warren was a major priority for many in America’s financial industries [which] she has long sought to regulate,” political science professor Rogers Smith said. “There was a lot of money spent against her; and she was up against an incumbent. She had to spend.”

Post-elections debt is not new in the world of political campaigns.

“It is hard to project exactly how much money a campaign is going to raise ahead of time, and [for] many expenses like direct mail, staff have to be made before the budget is known,” political science professor Marc Meredith said in an email.

He added that the debt should not mar Warren’s career in the Senate.

“It shouldn’t be too much of an issue for Warren, who has six years before her next campaign as a [s]enator,” he said. “Debt is a much bigger deal for a member of the House, who pretty much immediately has to start raising money for 2014.”

Meredith said the overall trend of expensive campaigns may have been a factor in the issue of campaign debt.

“My guess would be that while campaigns have always gone into debt, the magnitude of this debt has likely risen … in conjunction with the rising cost of campaigns,” he said.

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