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Wealthy donors are cutting big checks to super PACs to help Republican Senate candidates win crowded primaries and compete financially with well-funded Democrats.
According to year-end reports due to the Federal Election Commission on Monday, political action committees set up to support individual campaigns collected five-, six-, and seven-figure contributions over the last six months of 2021. The money was directed to top Senate races, such as Arizona and Georgia, where Republicans are seeking to unseat incumbent Democrats, as well as to states including Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the GOP is defending vulnerable open seats.
The early funding ahead of the midterm election year indicates GOP-supporting major donors are motivated to get their preferred candidates over the finish line, to close the gap with Democrats who raked in small-dollar donations online, and to help the party win back the Senate majority.
“What we’ve seen in recent election cycles is that for the top tier Senate races there’s been no shortage of money for either political party and I expect that to be the case this year as well,” said Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant and former spokesman at the GOP’s Senate campaign committee. “Between party committees, outside groups, and the candidates’ own campaigns, both sides will have the funds to get their message out in the battleground states that will decide control of Congress.”
Candidates are subject to contribution limits. Super PACs, also called independent-expenditure-only political action committees, can raise unlimited sums from individuals but can’t coordinate with the campaigns they’re supporting.
One of the best-funded, candidate-specific super PACs is backing Blake Masters, head of Thiel Capital, in Arizona. Saving Arizona collected $10.2 million last year, mostly from billionaire Peter Thiel. On Dec. 22, it received $50,000 checks from both Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, made famous in the movie “The Social Network,” about the founding of Facebook.
Thiel also gave $10 million early last year to Protect Ohio Values, which is supporting author J.D. Vance in his bid for the Senate.
In Pennsylvania, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin seeded Honor Pennsylvania, which is backing former hedge fund executive David McCormick, with $5 million of the $5.45 million it raised overall. Edward Conard, author and former Bain Capital executive, gave $100,000 to American Leadership Action, which raised $330,000 total to help celebrity physician Mehmet Oz.
Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus cut a $750,000 check to 34N22, the super PAC supporting Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who wore No. 34 as the star running back for the University of Georgia.
Piece of the Puzzle
These are only some of the political organizations that will be crowding the airwaves, and in some cases already are. Among them, both parties have campaign committees and aligned super PACs that took in tens of millions of dollars last year. Republicans need a net gain of only one seat to win control of the 50-50 Senate.
As in all midterm elections, the races will be decided in part by voters’ moods about the direction of the country and the performance of the president. Historically, the president’s party tends to lose seats in both the House and Senate.
Democrats turned in strong fourth-quarter fundraising reports in the most competitive Senate races. The party hopes the financial advantages their candidates are building with their campaigns are a sign of momentum ahead of the November elections and can help them tout the legislation they’ve advanced with control of Congress and the White House.
Martha McKenna, a Democratic media consultant and former top official at the party’s Senate campaign committee, said unlike with the big checks to super PACs, candidates raising money subject to contribution limits shows effort and engagement with voters.
The numbers from Democratic Senate candidates “are very inspiring” and contradict the conventional wisdom that the base is unmotivated headed into 2022, McKenna said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at email@example.com