Frenette’s Fundraising Fantasy

As the June deadline to file for candidacy for the 7th Congressional District election approaches, many may not be aware of the democratic candidates running against Republican incumbent Sean Duffy. Included in the Democratic candidates is music manager Kyle Frenette, who has reported high fundraising numbers. However, according to a Federal Election Commission financial summary, those totals seem to include his own contributions as well.

Kyle Frenette, the Bon Iver manager and founder of artist management firm Middle West, announced his run for the 7th congressional seat in late January. On his campaign site, the Chippewa Falls native claims he’s “ready to bring Wisconsin back to Washington,” with his progressive stances on many issues including such things as:

  • I support a gradual increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour, because more money to spend is more money to earn.
  • I support a fair tax code that removes the loopholes corporations use to cheat Americans.
  • I support union workers and the unions that give more power back to working people.
  • I support a single-payer health care program like Medicare For All so more people can receive the care they need, families can get ahead without the fear of medical bills, and more entrepreneurs can start businesses without risk of losing coverage.
  • I support taking immediate measures to limit the effects of climate change before we experience more unprecedented natural disasters and rising temperatures.

In terms of his campaign fundraising, the media began reporting that his campaign claimed that it had raised $250,000 in the first six weeks since his campaign had launched:

Art Voice: “In six weeks since launching his campaign, Democratic Candidate Kyle Frenette received over 700 individual contributions, with more than half of those totaling $50 or less, bit totaling over $250k. “
CNN: “Frenette recently announced raising $250,000 in the six weeks since his campaign launched.”
His campaign said much of the same in an email to supporters:
“Earlier this week we announced our fundraising results from our first filing deadline, which is the latest bit of evidence that people in Wisconsin’s 7th are ready for a change. We raised more than $250,000 in less than six weeks by running on progressive values like a stronger economy with more jobs and fairer wages, universal health care, and a well-funded education system.”
However, a GOP source told Media Trackers that his fundraisng total reported to the Federal Election Commission included a $50,000 campaign loan from Frenette himself. Looking at the FEC financial summary for Frenette, the total of the $243,715.98 raised included a $50,000 loan “made by candidate.” Looking closer at the loans, a $30,000 loan was reported filed on 1/19/18 and $20,000 was filed on 2/13/18, for the total of $50,000.
While Frenette seemingly used his own $50,000 to bolster his campaign’s image as a sign of successful fundraising, he ironically spoke for the need for campaign finance reform in an interview with in early March:
“I’ve learned more about money in politics than I ever wanted to. Campaign Finance Reform is so desperately needed to save our democracy. I’m going to play the game now in order to get in there and help change this flawed system for the better, but damn! I now spend most of my days on the phone asking people for money in order to keep this campaign going. I guess I just never believed it was truly this bad — even our elected representatives are having to dial for dollars and likely as much as or more than they spend their time governing. It’s been eye-opening, to say the least.”
While the music manager complains of “asking people for money” while including his own loan, on the FEC site fellow notable Democratic opponents Margaret Engebretson has reportedly raised about 13,000, with no personal contribution, and Brian Ewert has raised $107,988.65, including a $35,000 candidate loan and a $10,025 candidate contribution. While candidates tout fundraising totals as a sign of support, it’s important to keep in mind just where that money is coming from.
The primary election for this race is August 14th, 2018.