By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Which Senate candidate is raising more money in-state?

So which U.S. Senate candidate is raising more money from Massachusetts residents? The Republican incumbent, Scott Brown, or his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren?

The emphasis in today’s Boston Globe story by Brian Mooney is on Warren’s out-of-state fundraising prowess. But I thought it would be interesting to dive a little deeper into the numbers. What I discovered is that either someone at the Globe is math-impaired — or that my own dubious math abilities have led me astray.

Let’s start, as I did, with Mooney’s story, which tell us that (1) Warren raised $5.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, 61.3 percent of it from out of state; and (2) Brown raised $3.2 million, 66 percent of it from inside the Bay State. By those numbers, Warren raised $2.2 million in Massachusetts and Brown raised $2.1 million. That would mean Warren isn’t just a national fundraising phenomenon, but she’s also doing better than Brown where it really matters.

But wait. After I read the story, I took a look at the bar graph accompanying it — and was informed (misinformed?) that Brown had raised $1.5 million in Massachusetts during the fourth quarter compared to just $1.2 million for Warren. The overall fundraising totals in the graph are much lower than what’s in Mooney’s story, so there’s clearly an apples-and-oranges problem somewhere.

But what is the problem? I’m not sure. Neither the story nor the chart explains the disparity. We’re talking about math, so I don’t rule out the possibility that there’s a simple explanation staring me right in the face. Any thoughts?

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  1. I started calling him “Clueless” Brian Mooney after he twice incorrectly wrote in the 1990s that I lived in the North End of Boston. I lived in Mission Hill at the time and despite requests, no correction was offered. I guess he assumed that because I had an Italian name, I lived there, which is kinda bigoted.
    In another rather nasty column, he took a cheap shot at me after the Fenway Action Coalition announced that I was joining them to stop the billion dollar boondoggle megaplex. He stating the Sox shouldn’t worry about me, since I had little organization support. But in the end, we were able to solidify five city council votes that were needed to stop eminent domain, saving historic Fenway Park. So he was wrong on that one too.
    But, in fairness to Clueless, his story seems to come down to the way you look at the numbers. It’s similar to the “who created the most debt, Obama or Bush,” issue folks have been yelling about online. If you look at percentages, they give you one impression; if you look at dollars, they give you another.
    Clearly from Mooney’s piece, he’s looking at percentages. But it’s written without using comparative percentages. As a percentage, Brown raised more money in Massachusetts than Warren. If you look at actual dollars, Warren raised more actual dollars. In less than four years, Obama has more debt to his credit than W. had in eight years; if you look at the percentage of increase in debt, W. has more than Obama.
    Ideally, if the piece kept Warren’s sentence like this: “…with 61.3 percent of her itemized donations coming from beyond Massachusetts’ …” Brown’s sentence should have been: “By contrast, Brown received about ONE-THIRD of his support from OUTSIDE Massachusetts …” I don’t know why it was written the opposite way, maybe to confuse readers.
    What’s so amazing to me is the graphic showing the high percentages old folks donating money to the campaigns. Clearly, the financial sector hasn’t run retirement accounts into the ground enough if all those people have money to spread around for this race (that’s sarcasm, BTW). Back to work. 🙂

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Tony: I don’t buy your explanation, because Mooney’s story and the bar chart show very different fundraising totals.

  2. Jerry Ackerman

    My gut question when I began reading the story (on paper) this morning was: Are we talking most dollars taken in? Or most individual donors? Without the actual records in hand, I don’t know.

  3. Al Fiantaca

    An interesting statistic to see might be the in-state/outside-state donations for Scott Brown during the period he was running against Martha Coakley, and the period between his election and the date that Elizabeth Warren became a candidate. It’s apparent that Warren is attracting more donations from out of state than Brown, but that could just be the phase of candidacy that she is in as opposed to Brown who has already been there. Where did the money that Brown had on hand before Warren became a candidate come from? It might be nice to know that, instead of insinuating that outsiders are influencing Warren’s campaign to a greater degree than local boy Brown.

  4. Adam Riglian

    One of the graphics has a section for “unspecified donations.” Perhaps Mooney counted those in the story in the total figures (the $5.7 mil), but those unspecified are subtracted out when the math is done on the in-state/out-of-state bar graph in the bottom, leading to the discrepancy.

    It looks like Warren has about $2.5 – $2.7 “unspecified donations” in Q4 based on my reading of that first graphic. If you add her bar graph figures together, the total is $3.1 million. $3.1 + $2.6 would equal the $5.7 total. Granted, that is total speculation and could just be me forcing the numbers fit into a solution.

    Either that or there’s a mistake on either the reporter or graphics department end.

  5. Adam Riglian

    Well, on second viewing, my math is wrong, I just forced the numbers to fit.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Adam: I’m getting closer to an explanation. I don’t think anyone made a mistake. The two sets of numbers are measuring two different things, and that wasn’t clear from the story or the chart. Maybe the story was clear enough, but the chart wasn’t.

  6. Adam Riglian

    Ah, the bar graph is only showing itemized donations (as it said right in front of us, d’oh!)

    The $5.7 million figure from the story must be total donations, including the ones less than $200 that don’t have to be itemized.

    Here’s a question for follow-up if you’re talking to the Globe already: if out-of-state undergrad and grad students are giving to Warren (or Brown), which category do they go in? Is it based on where they are registered, where they live or where their permanent address is?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Adam: No d’oh needed. That language has been added since this morning. And it’s still not clear to me whether it’s accurate to do the exercise I did this morning — take Brown’s and Warren’s fundraising totals (itemized and unitemized) and apply the percentages. Hoping for an explanation soon.

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