Senate Bombshell: Smith Announces $4.4 Million Cash on Hand

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Former coal company owner Tom Smith this morning made a big splash in the crowded Republican primary for U.S. Senate. His campaign announced a whopping $4.4 million cash on hand at the end of the fourth quarter, largely as a result of a $4.25 million self-loan from Smith himself.

The number is shows that Smith is ready, willing and able to commit significant financial resources to his campaign. It’s even enough to put him within striking distance of U.S. Senator Bob Casey’s cash on hand, which is likely to be around $5 million. Casey has yet to officially announce his numbers.

It makes two quarters in a row; Smith turned heads in the third quarter as well when he loaned his campaign $750,000. He was the first candidate to go on television, spending around $300,000 on a positive statewide ad in December. In the decade prior to his candidacy, Smith contributed over $250,000 to Republican causes and candidates.

“Tom Smith has again demonstrated that he has the organization, message, and resources to defeat Bob Casey in November,” said Campaign Manager Jim Conroy.  “With Tom’s tireless work ethic and ability to connect with an electorate that has had enough of professional politicians – it comes as no surprise that Tom Smith is now leading in the polls.”

Only one other campaign has released its numbers so far: Chester County entrepreneur Steve Welch announced that his campaign had an impressive $1 mil cash on hand; with $1 million of his $1.125 million Q4 total coming as a self-loan.

The Smith campaign was quick to point out that its $125,000 in money raised either matched or eclipsed Welch, whose team boasts some of Pa.’s top fundraisers. The final tally will be available when the campaign finance reports are posted by the FEC.

Sam Rohrer, a former State Rep. from Berks County, will report somewhere in the neighborhood of $120,000. Tim Burns, a businessman from Washington County who ran for Congress in 2010, has yet to announce. As do Harrisburg-area attorney Marc Scaringi and every other candidate.

Smith’s massive show of self-funding is a tactic with several likely results:

1. It puts Smith at the top of the primary field.

Combine the COH of all his opponents, times three, and Smith still leads. His early closeness to Casey, who many expect will outpace his GOP rivals in the fundraising department, will bring new national attention to the race (and the news will likely give Casey’s fundraising a boost). Smith will also see more “earned” media.

2. It gives pause to opponents’ donors…

It’s already tough to raise money in a contested primary – especially money from Washington. Will big Pa. Republican donors be willing to max out to campaigns that consistently lag Smith in fundraising?

3. …and opponents themselves.

How much of their own money do Steve Welch and Tim Burns want to spend on this race? Smith is like a poker player with the big stack: his opponents know up front that they’ll need to go all in if they want to be competitive.

4. It makes an open primary – without a GOP state committee endorsement – more likely.

As it stands now, no one candidate has a straight path to the endorsement. Smith himself is not strongly seeking it. As the campaigns work the forthcoming regional caucus meetings across the state, Smith’s financial bulk tells party leaders he’s committed to the race and that endorsing another candidate might not be a wise investment of party resources. Indeed, his campaign has already sent letters to committee members and activists that highlight his financial commitment to the race.

Smith, 63, lives in Shelocta with wife Saundy. He has seven children – three adopted – and eight grandchildren. He built a mid-sized coal operation over most of the past several decades, which he sold in 2009. He recently served as the chairman of the Indiana-Armstrong Patriots, a Tea Party group.

January 4th, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Senate, Top Stories | 9 Comments

9 thoughts on “Senate Bombshell: Smith Announces $4.4 Million Cash on Hand”

  1. bobguzzardi says:

    Tom Smith is committed to financing a primary challenge to the Establishment’s endorsed candidate. $$$ are the most tangible symbols of commitment.

    Tom Smith is Independent of the Republican Establishment and is committed to Tea Party principles of Constitutional Limited Government Economic Freedom.

    Tom Smith has real world experience creating jobs in the energy sector, Marcellus Shale and clean coal, which are the key drivers of Pennsylvania job creation.

  2. mary ann meloy says:

    Back to Luke. You seem to be in the know about the candidates, yet you do not mention the fact that Welch was a demoncrat two years ago too. He changed his registration from R to D so he could vote for Obama. He also hosted a fund raiser for Sestak. Seems to me we had some Republican candidates running in 2008. Smith supported conservative Republicans. Not ULTRA LIBERAL democrats.

  3. Luke says:

    This site generally does an excellent job providing accurate and interesting news. This story certainly is interesting, but the accuracy is questionable at best.

    First, there are several typos. Like “The number is shows that Smith is ready”, and “Tim Burns, a businessman from Washington County who ran for Congress in 2010, has yet to announce. As do Harrisburg-area attorney Marc Scaringi and every other candidate.”

    Secondly, the “likely” results aren’t necessarily likely at all.
    1. You can combine the CoH of other candidates all you want, but many have yet to report and Welch, Burns, etc. can always throw in more if they need it to spend. Also, Smith was a Democrat 2 years ago, which is can hardly be papered over in a primary field and certainly should give pause to anyone who puts him at the top.
    2. It might give pause to opponents donors, but most donors aren’t giving to Smith, Welch or apparently Rohrer. Burns may or may not post a big number raised outside his bank account, but it’s a self-funding war so far.
    3. Why would Welch and Burns have to go “all in”? I’m not sure how much either is worth, but Burns turned in a financial disclosure form when he ran for Congress. And he could put in the money to match Smith and probably never miss it. Welch might be able to do the same. Are you sure Smith is wealthier than those two or more willing to spend his wealth?

    This sort of speculation is better made when Smith puts $5 million on TV and no one else goes up. For now, it’s an insider game that’s important for candidates who rely on raising lots of money but doesn’t tell us a lot when three of the top four can fund an expansive race on their own.

  4. Endre says:

    What I find appauling is how we “inept” Americans have allowed money to infiltrate our political process in such a way that only the rich have an opportunity to be in charge. Wouldn’t it be nice to see someone in office who’s actually lived a regular life before? Maybe someone who’s been laid off once in their life, or still has student loans to pay because they’re working in a middle class job? Sounds more like the American dream than some former coal exec who made millions while the guys doing the work and putting their lives at risk made just enough to feed their families.

  5. Arlen Specter says:

    Ha ha, Rob, you fool! Once again, you failed! ha ha ha

  6. sue says:

    coal money can’t buy you love!

  7. Julie says:

    Rob, This is a separate sentence. The ad has nothing to do with the next sentence regarding the past decade and Tom Smith contributing large amounts of money to conservative causes and candidates.

  8. Porcupine says:

    Rob, did you really not take two seconds to check the link referencing those contributions made within the last decade before launching your ridiculous diatribe?

  9. Rob says:

    Come on, son, I advised you to proofread BEFORE posting. Once again, you failed.

    You wrote: “He was the first candidate to go on television, spending around $300,000 on a positive statewide ad in December. In the decade prior to his candidacy…”.

    I will briefly explain, in case you don’t understand. December 2011 is “in the YEAR prior to” a November 2012 U.S. Senate election. It is NOT “in the DECADE prior to” that forthcoming election.

    Do you not know the difference between “decade” and “year”? Are you using a different calendar than most of us? Or is this just another case of sloppy proofreading on your part?

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