Senators are hoarding huge cash reserves
The Democratic incumbents facing the toughest races this year have so far accumulated significant cash, far exceeding the financial resources of most potential Republican opponents, who still have to survive the primaries to have the right to face them in November. .
Leading the pack are two senators who were elected in the 2020 special election and are now seeking full terms: the senses. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Kelly has $25.6 million in reserve after grossing $13.6 million for the quarter, while Warnock had $23.3 million in the bank after raising $11.4 million in the past three months. Both have some of the most formidable fundraising operations in politics — because they need it, representing two of the states closest to the 2020 election.
But all the other Democratic incumbents had a sizable amount of money. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) had $11.1 millionSenator Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) had $7.6 million and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) had $6.1 million.
The two Republican Battleground States also have large War Chests. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — a former and possibly future presidential candidate — stored $13.1 million. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) had the the smallest stock of all senators leaving the battlefieldsitting on $3.6 million after only launching his campaign in recent months.
And although Sen. Tim Scott (RS.C.) is not expected to have a competitive election later this year, he is raising funds — and spending — as a potential 2024 presidential candidate. His campaign raised nearly $4 million and has $23.4 million in the bank.
Sensing an opportunity, GOP megadonors are opening their checkbooks even wider
With the political winds at your back, Republicans with deep pockets poured money into super PACs with ties to Republican leaders in the Senate and House. The Senate Leadership Fund, controlled by allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, grossed $27 million in the quarter and grew its cash reserves to over $72.3 million. The group received a check for $10 million from Schwarzman and $5 million from Griffin. Perhaps the most significant donation was the $2 million contribution from Fox Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch.
The Republicans’ flagship super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is linked to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, fared even better. FLC grossed nearly $38 millionincluding $10 million from Schwarzman, $7.5 million from Griffin and several other seven-figure checks.
Some of the same big donors have also gotten involved in individual states, including the GOP primaries. Honor Pennsylvania, which backed investor David McCormick in the open Senate primary and attacked doctor Mehmet Oz in the race, raised nearly $10 million, which includes $2.5 million from Griffin, $1 million from Paul Singer and $500,000 for Schwarzman. The donations all arrived before Trump endorsed Oz in the race earlier this month.
The top Senate and House super PACs of Democrats file on a monthly schedule, so their next reports covering their activity in March are due April 20.
Crypto Spills in 2022
The crypto industry has increasingly flexed its muscles in Washington, and major players are beginning to pour large sums into super PACs that have already spent millions on the 2020 election.
The biggest was Protect Our Future, the effort backed by Sam Bankman-Fried, the billionaire CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX. The group has already spent millions on Democratic primaries across the country. POLITICO previously reported that Protect Our Future planned to spend at least $10 million on contests, and new repositories from this group reveal that the majority of the initial funding for this group comes from Prime Trust LLC, a Nevada-based crypto company, which grossed $14 million. Everytown for Gun Safety – the pro-gun watchdog group founded by Michael Bloomberg – also made two small in-kind donations to keep the polls from hitting six figures. The group has already leaked nearly $13 million in expenses over four races.
Web3 Forward, another great PAC, got $2 million from another crypto-backed organization GMI PAC, which has been backed in part by Trump aide-turned-enemy Anthony Scaramucci and has already spent seven figures on advertising. Scaramucci also donated $100,000 to a fourth group called Crypto Innovation in the neighborhood.
Anonymous money reigns
LLC’s donation to Protect Our Future was one of the biggest donations we saw in the first quarter, but there was a lot more money flowing into the federal election without an actual donor name attached to it. . One of the biggest donors to the Senate Leadership Fund was its own affiliated “dark money” nonprofit, One Nation, which donated $2.1 million. The Congressional Leadership Fund has secured more than $6 million from its nonprofit affiliate, American Action Network.
Some organizations that appear to have been formed to support a single candidate also have opaque fundraising mechanisms. A group supporting former Sen. David Perdue’s main challenge against Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp received over $2 million in black money donations, and none of its Q1 funding came from named donors. Americans for Secure Elections, which ran ads encouraging Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, received its funding from three loosely named organizations.
A mysterious organization called “Defending America Together” also poured money into the Senate Republican primaries. It gave $3 million to the Pennsylvania Conservative Fundwho attacked Oz, and $2 million at the group America’s Promisewhich in turn donated over $2 million to Alabama Patriots PAC, which has supported Michael Durant in the open race for the State Senate.
The bands FEC documents list the Defending America Together address as a UPS store in Phoenix. A company with that name was registered in Delaware in January, according to state records.
Many of the top Democratic super PACs are expected to file later this month, but Democratic black money has still appeared in those filings. Sixteen Thirty Fund was the sole funder of a group called Alaskans for Bristol Bay Action, donating $600,000 to the organization. The group reported no expenses.
Watch this space going forward: The FEC also signaled on Friday that it may begin to crack down on some black money donations from companies set up solely to protect the identities of megadonors.
Biden floats money to Harris, while Trump pays a lot of lawyers
President Joe Biden’s mostly idle campaign operation transferred $560,000 to Kamala Harris For The People, the former presidential campaign of its now vice-president. The reason seems trivial enough: Harris’ campaign has obligations to settle. Harris campaign disgorged to the U.S. Treasury hundreds of thousands of dollars in past donations that were likely donations in excess of 2020 contribution limits. (On that list was Leonardo DiCaprio.)
The Harris campaign is also in debt: more than $300,000 to the Comptroller of Maryland for “payroll taxes” (his former campaign was based in Baltimore) and $100,000 in unpaid legal fees and expenses.
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump’s main political arm — his PAC Save America leadership, which had a budget of $110 million at the end of February — was not required to file new disclosures on Friday, but several other groups affiliated with him were. Make America Great Again PAC, another PAC that it controlsspent more than $1 million on legal advice from megafirms like Jones Day to boutique attorneys in Georgia, and the group also spent $1.2 million on expenses labeled as “recount: research advice.”
Save America Joint Fundraising Committee — a fundraising arm of many of its political operations – raised $19 million in the quarter, spending more than $6 million on text messages, online advertising and list rentals.
And a super PAC blessed by Trump – Make America Great Again, Again! – grossed $4.3 million and has $12.5 million in cash. (One of his biggest donors during this period was Ohio Senate candidate Mike Gibbons, who missed out on Trump’s endorsement in that primary.) most important single line item of the quarter? A payment of $318,000 to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club for “event expenses: facility rental and catering services.”