5 takeaways from the latest fundraising disclosures
Many primary pictures remain muddy heading into midterm year
Lawmakers and congressional candidates offered a glimpse at the big money battles for the 2022 midterm elections, providing clues about how the races are shaping up, including those pitting incumbents against each other.
Recent disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission show the fundraising hauls in pivotal Senate primaries in states, such as North Carolina and Pennsylvania, that will determine which party controls the chamber.
And some lawmakers who are headed for the exits are set to depart Capitol Hill with large sums of political money that they’ll have discretion over how to use.
[House GOP faces no fundraising backlash for opposing electors]
Those are just some of the takeways from fourth-quarter fundraising reports that were due at the FEC on Monday night.
1. Dem-on-Dem matchups
Three primaries in which Democratic members are facing each other muddles the storyline that developed during the 2021 special elections, when moderates consistently outraised and defeated progressives in several high-profile races.
In Michigan’s new 11th District, Rep. Haley Stevens outraised her more progressive colleague, Andy Levin.
Stevens raised $635,000 in the fourth quarter to Levin’s $365,000, outpacing him in both small-dollar and PAC donations and bringing her total receipts for the year to $2.6 million, compared to Levin’s $1.3 million. The two were both first elected in the 2018 Democratic wave. Levin comes from a state political dynasty but Stevens has more experience running in competitive races after spending the last two cycles as a GOP target.
In Illinois’ 6th District, meanwhile, two-term moderate Rep. Sean Casten raised $700,000, more than double the $338,000 raised by progressive Rep. Marie Newman, who came to the House after defeating a more conservative Democrat in a 2020 primary. Casten’s total receipts come to just under $2 million for the year, compared to Newman’s $1 million total.
In the third Democratic member-on-member primary, in Georgia’s 7th District Rep. Lucy McBath raised $746,000, while Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux raised $432,000. McBath’s total receipts for the year were $3.3 million to Bourdeaux’s $2.5 million.
Both McBath and Bourdeaux are considered rising stars in the Democratic delegation after they flipped Republican-held seats in the Atlanta suburbs in 2018 and 2020.
But McBath has support from influential House Democrats, including Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, along with progressive groups angry with Bourdeaux for joining a threat to vote down the party’s signature social spending package unless the bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed first. McBath switched districts after the state’s redistricting plan made her current 6th District more favorable to Republicans.
2. GOP Senate primaries
Former NFL running back Herschel Walker, the candidate President Donald Trump urged to run in the Senate primary in Georgia, raised $5.3 million during the fourth quarter, which is more than four times the combined total of several other Republicans in the race.
Walker’s $9.1 million in total receipts for the year put him well above the rest of the GOP pack. The next highest total was $3.1 million raised last year by Latham Saddler, a Navy SEAL who served as director of intelligence in the Trump White House.
But Trump’s preferred candidates have fallen behind in the money race in other states. In Alaska, Kelly Tshibaka has Trump’s endorsement in her challenge to incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski but raised $602,000 to Murkowski’s $1.4 million. Tshibaka entered the new year with $634,000 in her account, compared with Murkowski’s $4.3 million.
In Alabama, GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who got Trump’s endorsement in April 2021, continued to be outperformed by Katie Boyd Britt, a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard C. Shelby. Britt raised $1.2 million during the fourth quarter, compared to Brooks’ $386,000. Boyd started the new year with $4.1 million in her campaign fund; Brooks had less than $2 million.
Candidates in other competitive GOP Senate primaries have been competing for Trump’s support. But it’s unclear whether their efforts to impress the former president have had that effect on fundraisers, and several have relied on their own personal wealth to compete.
That’s the case for celebrity candidate Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, who said Trump was a fan of his television shows. Oz raised nearly $5.9 million in the fourth quarter, but almost all of that – $5.2 million – came from a personal loan.
Oz also spent more than $4.8 million, and finished the year with just over $1 million. That put him behind developer Jeff Bartos, who after lending his campaign $12.4 million earlier in 2021, finished the year with the highest cash-on-hand total of just under $2.5 million. Former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick entered the race last month, so he won’t be required to file a disclosure form until April.
In Missouri, former Gov. Eric Greitens has the support of many members of Trump’s inner circle, but some conservatives have urged Trump not to endorse him because of a scandal-plagued past that could be a drag in the general election.
Those concerns have apparently not fazed donors, who gave Greitens $471,000 during the fourth quarter, which put him in line with the numbers posted by three of his competitors, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt ($457,000) and Reps. Vicky Hartzler ($437,000) and Billy Long ($471,000).
Hartzler led the field with cash on hand on Dec. 31, with nearly $1.8 million, followed by Schmitt’s $1.3 million and $1.1 million for state Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, who loaned his campaign $1 million. Long also loaned his campaign $250,000 and ended the quarter with $577,000.
The only candidate whose fundraising notably flagged during the quarter was personal injury lawyer Mark McCloskey, who gained attention when he stood on his porch with a rifle to keep Black Lives Matter protesters off his property. McCloskey raised $89,000 and finished the fourth quarter with less than $100,000.
3. More self-funders
A handful of Republican Senate candidates vying to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona and secure the open-seat nomination in Ohio also used personal loans to gain an edge in crowded fields.
Arizona candidate Jim Lamon, a solar energy entrepreneur who has attempted to sow doubt about the state’s 2020 election results, loaned his campaign $3 million, bringing the total he has loaned it to $8 million and putting him ahead of his non self-funding competitors. The second-best-funded candidate was Blake Masters, former chief operating officer for billionaire entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel. Masters raised $1.6 million to bring his total for the cycle to $2.6 million.
In Ohio, the three highest fundraisers – investment banker Michael Gibbons, former state Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken and car dealer-turned tech executive Bernie Moreno – loaned their campaigns a total of $5.8 million.
4. Retirees have decisions
Lawmakers who are planning to hit the exits still have big money left in their campaign accounts. The six senators (one Democrat and five Republicans) who are retiring held more than $50 million on Dec. 31, while House members have a combined $33.3 million in leftover political cash, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis.
Departing senators refunded $1.3 million in contributions during 2021, while their House counterparts disclosed giving back $1.1 million. When members of Congress retire prior to the primary election and don’t participate in the general election, they need to refund any contributions received toward the general election. Other than that, retiring members are not required to issue refunds of unspent campaign funds and have some discretion about how they may use it post-Congress.
5. Walker trails in N.C.
Former North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker’s announcement last week that he would remain in the Senate race rather than seek a House seat came as he trailed several GOP primary rivals in fourth quarter fundraising.
Walker, who retired rather than run for reelection in 2020 in a district redrawn by courts to strongly favor Democrats, raised $146,000 in the fourth quarter. By comparison, Rep. Ted Budd, who has Trump’s endorsement, raised $968,000, while former Gov. Pat McCrory raised $748,000 and political newcomer Marjorie Eastman raised $423,000.
Trump had offered to endorse Walker for the House if he dropped out of the Senate race, but Walker decided to take his chances.
“When we stepped away from Congress, it was in our heart to … take what we’ve been able to do in central North Carolina and take that across the state for the U.S. Senate,” Walker said at an event Thursday night. “Basically what we’re saying is that we’re going to stay on that path and we’re going to keep working on this.”
Budd led the field with cash on hand going into 2022, with $2.2 million. McCrory reported $1.9 million, while Walker had $572,000 and Eastman, who launched her campaign 13 weeks before the end of the year, had $287,000.
“I might be a political newcomer and many think this a three-man race, but my message is resonating with voters and the number of donations to my campaign proves that,” she said in a statement.