Constitution Party Seeing Decline In Revenue

 

The Constitution Party, which has had some recent troubles stemming from several state party dis-affiliations, appears to also be in the midst of a long term financial decline.

A review of more than a decade of Federal Election Commission filings from the Constitution Party shows a party that has been suffering from a long decline in revenue.

Reviewing the documents from a decade ago, the Constitution Party in 2008 had more than $400,000 in donations, several staffers on the payroll, and had a record election year with Presidential Nominee Chuck Baldwin receiving a party high 199,750 votes (that number was eclipsed in 2016). Fast forward to 2018 and the party has taken in just over $85,000 in revenue, appears to be down to just one part-time staff member, and ended the year with just $1,626 in cash on hand. Since 2013, the party has topped $100,000 in donations twice, and since 2007 has ended the year with more than $10,000 cash on hand only two times.

Although having a part-time staff member and an office is more than most third parties can boast, this is a significant decline from the Constitution Party of 2007 and 2008. Two positive aspects of the party are that, despite its financial declines, its 2016 Presidential Candidate Darrell Castle was able to break the 200,000 vote mark with only $67,362 in contributions and being on the lowest number of state ballots (they were on the ballot in 24 states) since the parties first presidential ticket in 1992 (21 states).

A review of the year to date FEC reports appears to show the Constitution Party financial decline is extending into 2019 as well. The most recently filed report showed the party, on its current trajectory, it will end 2019 on similar financial footing as 2018.

As of June 30, the party only had $3,764 on hand and had taken in $43,321 in 2019. In addition, the Constitution Party has spent a total of $41,184 this year, of which 10% has been spent on rent, 17% on payroll, and 18% on ballot access. A total of $7,355 has been spent on ballot access this year, paid to two companies: American Liberty Consulting and Ballot Access, Inc.

Whether the recent disaffiliations will have any effect on the financial performance of the Constitution Party is yet to be seen.

*Source: Federal Election Commission

*Note: You can click either table above to view more clearly.

36 thoughts on “Constitution Party Seeing Decline In Revenue

  1. paulie

    So income/spending/balance essentially flat for the last seven years, but the 2008 and 2016 tickets headed by party activists did better than the 2012 ticket headed by a congresscitter crossover, as has been the general pattern in other parties (LP: Barr; GP: McKinney). Paul ’88 was also no breakout for the LP. Lesson for those pushing Amash for LP?

    Not seeing any new evidence of additional or further decline other than the rash of state party disaffiliations we previously reported on. What am I missing here if anything?

  2. Anthony Tomkins

    This all hinges on the idea that the party accurately reports to the FEC. From the bit I can gather, they are fairly sketchy when it comes to money.

  3. Jim

    I assume the fall in donations had to do with the California AIP disaffiliation in 2008. Constitution Party national averaged $325,665 for the 12 years 1997 – 2008. Then came AIP disaffiliation and the slide from 2008 – 2013, after which it leveled off. The 6 years 2013 – 2018 averaged $90,979. It’s too soon for the recent disaffiliations to show up in falling revenue.

    Same thing has happened to the Green Party, although not that extreme. The Greens averaged $420,115 for the 7 years 2002 – 2008. But for the last 9 years, 2010 – 2018, they averaged $228,197.

    The LP averaged $2,287,567 for the 9 years 1996 – 2004 and then $1,533,464 for the last 14 years, but we know the reason for that, and at least part of the money during the 96-04 period was just counting state party money as national party revenue.

  4. Jim

    Might also want to include in the calculation the fact that the Constitution Party had separate Convention Committees in 2012 and 2016, which raised $14,400 and $48,300. That money isn’t included in the figures in either my earlier comment or the OP.

  5. Richard Winger

    Bob Barr got a higher percentage of the vote in 2008 than either Michael Badnarik in 2004 or Harry Browne in 2000.

    2000 was .36%
    2004 was .32%
    2008 was .40%, despite worse ballot access than either of the two preceding elections

  6. paulie

    2000 was a year with a notoriously close election among the duopoly, and much better known, financed/reported alternatives (Buchanan and Nader). 2004 was a year when both of the stronger candidates going into the convention neutralized each other leaving the winner as a little known candidate who got to the convention on fumes by fundraising the money to get to each convention at the previous one, who many (admittedly myself included) thought would fall flat on his face in a national campaign his was not ready for in any way. He didn’t.

    Barr had neither handicap yet managed to score right smack in the middle of the 0.4% plus or minus 0.1% the LP got for each presidential ticket from 1984 to 2008. The rosy predictions of tens of millions of dollars in fundraising, new records and gold states fell by the wayside, and he remarkably failed to capitalize on the libertarian current I first noticed in Arkansas in 2007, before Ron Paul even ran, as people asked for the LP petition by name over and over again without being prompted – something I never experienced in the prior decade I petitioned. That current which coalesced around Paul and propelled the libertarian “brand” to be far better recognized among the general public, for better or worse.

    Barr raised and spent about the same million as Badnarik with approximately the same results, and was a post 1980s ballot access low for the LP in presidential elections. For this the LP hurt its credibility with much of the small l libertarian movement and permanently shed not a few long term party members I know, caused many others to look back with shame and regret, and failed to capitalize or bring in downticket support or long term members or much of any positive long term impact. The cycle was a wash, with Barr going back to non-libertarian Republican before the next presidential round.

    Luckily, it also did not do that much lasting damage; it turned out relatively few people noticed or cared at least not for very long. But it certainly did not take us to the next level.

    The same may be said of the Greens and Cynthia McKinney; she may have done better than Cobb (I’ll need to double check) but not on any kind of order of magnitude level, nor did Paul 88 take the LP up to any higher plane. Certainly Goode was a flop for the constitutionalists. None of them produced remarkable vote totals for their briefly adopted parties. None surged party membership or income. None paid off for down ballot candidates or long term ballot access. None was worth any sacrifice of ideological principle or party independence.

    When was the last US House crossover who took an existing alt party to “the next level”?

  7. NewFederalist

    I feel somewhat badly for the CP but like most minor parties they bring much, if not most, of their problems on themselves. I think paulie’s chronicle of the LP (as well as the CP and the GP) above is really perceptive.

  8. Richard Winger

    2004 was perceived as just as close as 2000, just before election day 2004. On election day 2004, the exit polls even reported that Kerry would beat Bush.

  9. George Phillies

    Readers interested in Libertarian Presidential campaign finance are referred to my books Funding Liberty and Surely We Can Do Better, both available through Amazon.

  10. George Phillies

    The difference in vote outcome between Browne, Badnarik, and Barr is notable for its insignificance.

  11. paulie

    “2004 was perceived as just as close as 2000, just before election day 2004. On election day 2004, the exit polls even reported that Kerry would beat Bush.”

    But 2008 did not have that issue, nor any better known and financed tickets (Nader was way off his peak by then, and McKinney was an even bigger flop than Barr).

    “The difference in vote outcome between Browne, Badnarik, and Barr is notable for its insignificance.”

    Agree. But Browne did a lot more to build the party in other respects, and Barr least of all.

  12. Jim

    Nader collected 274,000 more votes in 2008 (739,278) than he did in 2004 (465,642). Both years were way down from 2000 of course (2008 exceeded Nader’s 1996 total). But, I don’t think Nader can be dismissed as “way off his peak” in 2008, but not 2004.

  13. paulie

    I think you missed my point. In 2000 Browne faced 1) Extremely close duopoly election 2) Better known and financed alternative candidates in Buchanan and Nader. In 2004 Badnarik faced 1) Lack of financing, name recognition or resume coming into convention, generally perceived as third place for the nomination 2) Extremely close duopoly election.

    Barr had none of these problems, instead benefiting in theory from a “libertarian moment” that crystallized around Ron Paul’s campaign, yet didn’t do substantially better despite exaggerated expectations and promises used to help him get the nomination.

  14. Michigan Voter

    I am not a Constitution Party member. I have voted for a few of their statewide candidates in the past to help them retain ballot status (I have done the same with the other third parties in Michigan, as well). But, I must comment here.

    There is no reason for conservative independents to celebrate if the CP fails. It has been my experience with third parties, particularly on the right, that any third party will divide into factions based on contrarian personality types who will get their panties in bundle over some internal issue. Whether it is a platform plank, some arcane rule difference, or a difference in preference for candidates, they will take their ball and go home.

    This pattern has happened time and time again and will continue to. If they want to act like rational adults, they would spend their energy trying to elect local candidates. If they lose a rules fight or a platform fight or a candidate fight, they would continue to support the party publicly and work to make changes when they can. They wouldn’t take their ball and go home. But, that isn’t going to happen. So resume your circular firing squad.

  15. Jim

    Your argument is what – Badnarik outperformed, despite low name recognition and lack of funding, but Barr underperformed, despite somewhat better name recognition and slightly better fund raising (but also, Barr underpeformed on expected fundraising)… even though Barr actually did slightly outperform Badnarik both in election results and fundraising?

    Stop making excuses for 2000 Browne. Browne in 1996 faced stiffer 3rd party competition in Ross Perot and Nader (combined for 8,770,000 votes with Perot on the ballot in every state) than he did in 2000 (Buchanan and Nader combined for 3,332,624 votes.) But 2000 Browne, despite raising more than a million more dollars, fell 100,000 votes short of his 1996 total.

  16. paulie

    My argument is that Barr, like Goode, Paul 88, McKinney did not take their parties to the next level, didn’t do substantially better electorally than their non-crossover predecessors and successors for those nominations, and did less to build the infrastructure of those parties while hurting long term credibility more on average.

    On the more granular sidenote, yes, Badnarik did better than expected. While Barr got a few more votes, the expectations were vastly different.

    But 2000 Browne, despite raising more than a million more dollars, fell 100,000 votes short of his 1996 total.

    The closeness of the Bush/Gore contest had a lot to do with that. Clinton/Dole was just not nearly the same dynamic.

    But again, these are sidenotes. The larger point was that none of these crossovers did substantially better than the nominees of those same parties who came before or after them, and were worse in other ways. I’m still wondering when the last time was, if ever, when a US representative crossing over to run outside the duopoly took an existing alt party to a higher level, as keeps getting promised in such cases.

  17. George Phillies

    What counts is how money was spent, money raised only putting a cap on spending (well, except as you leave the campaign at the end in debt, as Johnson 2012 did). Badnarik’s campaign mostly spent his money well. Barr’s campaign spent his money in large part on campaign consultants. For much more on these campaigns, read my books Funding Liberty and Surely We Can Do Better?

  18. George Phillies

    “when the last time was, if ever, when a US representative crossing over to run outside the duopoly took an existing alt party to a higher level, as keeps getting promised in such cases.”

    Abraham Lincoln

  19. Jim

    The effectiveness of how money was spent can be objectively measured. One way, which used to be published in LP News until 1997, was to add the Presidential candidate’s fundraising with the funds raised by the LNC in the Presidential election year, and then divide that sum by the number of votes the Presidential candidate received, for a cost/vote.

    Adjusting for inflation to 2016:

    Year…..Funds Raised……Votes…….Cost/Vote
    1976……$1,986,775……..173,819…..$11.43
    1980….$10,949,849……..920,049…..$11.90
    1984……$2,582,829……..228,709…..$11.29
    1988……$4,307,193……..432,207…….$9.97
    1992……$3,478,313……..291,627…..$11.93
    1996……$5,586,332……..485,798…..$11.50
    2000……$8,169,611……..390,206…..$20.94
    2004……$4,101,721……..397,265…..$10.32
    2008……$3,427,595……..523,715…….$6.54
    2012……$4,580,690…..1,275,971…….$3.59
    2016….$14,862,925…..4,489,341…….$3.31

    1996 – 2004 was somewhat distorted by the Unified Membership Plan, and 2000 in particular because of Project Archimedes. Given that the LNC contributes significantly to Presidential ballot access and LNC revenue can be influenced by the Presidential candidate, I’m not sure it makes sense to remove the LNC from the calculation. But taking the LNC out of the picture and just using Presidential fundraising still leaves 2008 lower than 2004.

    I am of the opinion that people who voted for Barr in 2008 were just voting for the Libertarian Party as a statement, and not Barr the candidate. But that’s tough to demonstrate in the numbers. By the numbers, Barr was a better candidate than Badnarik.

  20. NewFederalist

    “I am of the opinion that people who voted for Barr in 2008 were just voting for the Libertarian Party as a statement, and not Barr the candidate. But that’s tough to demonstrate…” – Jim

    I know I would have voted for Chuck Baldwin over Bob Barr if I had been given the choice. Despite Baldwin’s background as a pastor I thought he was more libertarian than Barr. Since I was living in Pennsylvania at the time and the Constitution Party failed to get on the ballot I, in fact, DID vote for the party and NOT the nominee. I thought Barr was terrible and Root even worse!

  21. vagreen

    “The same may be said of the Greens and Cynthia McKinney; she may have done better than Cobb (I’ll need to double check) but not on any kind of order of magnitude level…”

    Slightly better. We got on the ballot in a few more states, but there really wasn’t much of an organization to speak of.

  22. Root's Teeth Are Awesome

    George, I’m not sure that you can consider the Republican Party of 1860 a third party. The Whig Party had collapsed, leaving a vacuum. Most former Whigs then regrouped into the Republican Party, refilling the vacuum they had created.

    Is that not so?

  23. NewFederalist

    In the 1860 election I think it’s difficult to say who the “third party” was. Even more difficult in 1856. I think Prof. Phillies’ point is valid but let’s face it; it was over 150 years ago.

  24. George Phillies

    Root’s teeth: In 1860 there were four major candidates on the ballot. The Republicans were only a regional party. Lincoln not being on the ballot in the South. However, the politics of 1845-1861 were fairly bizarre, so your claim is not wrong.

    Many people have forgotten the importance of the Maine Law, The Confessions of Molly Monk, disputes over tariffs, the importance of patronage, and the false accusation that Fremont was a Roman Catholic, which likely cost him the election.

  25. Jake Leonard

    The Constitution Party literally ceases to exist in Illinois. Literally dead. They have like three active members and only two can even bother to attend a meeting. They couldn’t even keep a gubernatorial candidate on lock last year, because their nominee refused to take the party pledge and become a party member among several conditions.

  26. Root's Teeth Are Awesome

    Cody, offhand I don’t know which AIP faction Don Grundmann belongs to. The faction that controls the AIP, or the faction that doesn’t?

  27. Root's Teeth Are Awesome

    One problem for the Constitution Party is that Trump is appealing to much of the CP’s fan base. The CP needs to ask, what can it promise that Trump doesn’t?

    * Unlike the GOP, both Trump and the CP want to restrict immigration.

    * Unlike the GOP, both Trump and the CP want trade protectionism.

    * Unlike the GOP, both Trump and the CP want to avoid foreign wars.

    Trump hasn’t delivered on those issues, but he’s pushed harder for them than any previous GOP president. A CP pragmatist might well conclude that Trump is the best he can hope for. In which case, why bother with the CP?

    Similarly, the Democratic Party is leaning further toward socialism, environmental regulation, and identity politics. Many Green Party members might well feel satisfied with the Dem nominee this year.

    A weakened CP and GP, with the GOP and Dems moving further to the extremes, might make the Libertarian Party more attractive to many voters in 2020.

    However, the Wasted Vote Syndrome should be an even bigger problem for the LP than in past years. Americans are so polarized, many will hate one major party far more than the other, and think that “this election is too important to lose.”

  28. NewFederalist

    RTAA- that’s actually a pretty fair analysis of things! I don’t agree that Trump is actually trying to avoid foreign wars but otherwise I largely concur.

  29. Michigan Voter

    Root’s Teeth is right. Trump has taken all their issues. It is sort of the problem third parties face. If their issues become popular enough, a major party steals them. Some would say it is a victory for those who felt compelled to start the third party in the first place, as their reason for creation is actually coming to fruition.

    It will be interesting to see what happens to the GOP after Trump. Will it return to where it was before or will it remain a Trump party, in terms of issues? If it remains a Trump party, the space that opens up for a third party is actually for the Romney-Bush type Republicans. A pro-business, pro-immigration, center-right party.

    I personally think that the people controlling the GOP care about business and money and used social issues to win elections, since most Americans aren’t rich and would tend to favor Democratic policy positions. But, Republicans used the social issues to get voters fired up. Well, Trump has figured out the best of both worlds.

    A party offering traditional “Romney-Bush” economic policy proposals without all the heat of the social issues won’t win. But, they may try it anyways.

  30. paulie

    both Trump and the CP want to avoid foreign wars.

    Trump…not so much.

    Many Green Party members might well feel satisfied with the Dem nominee this year.

    I doubt it.

  31. Root's Teeth Are Awesome

    both Trump and the CP want to avoid foreign wars.

    Trump…not so much.

    Had Clinton or Bush won in 2016, the U.S. might have pushed harder to remove Assad in Syria. Whereas Trump only made relatively token gestures.

    Had Clinton or Bush won in 2016, we might already be in a full scale shooting war with Iran.

    Trump’s also been surprisingly conciliatory toward North Korea.

    Trump’s learned that, whenever he needs a boost in the polls — and support from mainstream media — all he need do is some saber rattling against Syria or Iran. Even so, he’s dragged his feet. More though talk than follow through. Which, in this case, is a good thing.

  32. paulie

    Had Clinton or Bush won in 2016, the U.S. might have pushed harder to remove Assad in Syria. Whereas Trump only made relatively token gestures.

    Had Clinton or Bush won in 2016, we might already be in a full scale shooting war with Iran.

    Or not.

    Trump’s also been surprisingly conciliatory toward North Korea.

    Erratic, not conciliatory. It will end up getting the US into a war, or several, sooner or later, whether with Korea, China, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Mexico….who knows.

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