Congressional Democrats’ top two outside groups head into a competitive election season with a sizable financial cushion, according to year-end fundraising reports filed to the Federal Election Commission.
The super political action committees aligned with House and Senate Democratic leadership reported raising 70% more money than their Republican counterparts last year. The Democratic groups, House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC, raised a combined $102 million, while the GOP groups, Congressional Leadership Fund and Senate Leadership Fund, hauled in just under $60 million.
All four groups said they had record fundraising for an off-year. Excluding their affiliated nonprofit groups, which don’t file with the FEC, the Democratic super PACs reported beginning the year with a combined cash on hand of $84.7 million, while the Republican groups had $58.8 million.
Republican nonprofit arms raised an additional $76.4 million, according to press statements, while Democrats didn’t release any information about fundraising by their allied nonprofits.
It’s clear both sides will have plenty to spend on campaign ads to help their candidates, said Michael Malbin, director of the nonprofit Campaign Finance Institute.
This money will help ensure that “congressional elections will not get buried” as the airwaves are flooded by ads in the 2020 presidential election, he said. This could be especially important for some House Democrats running for re-election in districts won by President Donald Trump in 2016, because “it’s going to make sure that these are not just coattail elections.”
Leading in fundraising among the four organizations was the Senate Majority PAC, which is aligned with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The group collected $61 million in 2019, with more than half of that raised in the second half of the year. It began 2020 with more than $47 million in cash on hand, $30 million more than it had to begin 2018.
“We start 2020 with the momentum and resources necessary to compete deep into the Senate map, while Senate Republicans are forced to defend vulnerable incumbents,” saidJ.B. Poersch, the PAC’s president.
Democrats need a net gain of at least three seats to win the majority. Republican incumbents in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina and the Democratic incumbent in Alabama are the most vulnerable.
The Senate Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), raised $27.3 million in 2019, including $7.6 million transferred from its allied nonprofit, One Nation. The two groups claimed to raise $68.3 million combined in 2019.
Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the groups, didn’t address why Republican fundraising trailed Democrats. He emphasized in an email that the fundraising of affiliated conservative groups was three times as much as last cycle and surpassed an internal goal of $50 million.
Similarly, Senate Democratic candidates have been aided by a nonprofit called Majority Forward, which also doesn’t file the same periodic FEC reports that super PACs are required to do.
Taking it to the House
House Majority PAC, which is tied to Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.), raised nearly $41 million in 2019, including $32.8 million in the second half of the year.
House Republican leaders’ super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, reported raising $32.6 million. American Action Network, an allied nonprofit group that doesn’t report its finances to the commission, raised an additional $35.4 million to boost House Republicans, according to a statement.
House Democrats also have an allied nonprofit group, House Majority Forward, but House Majority PAC provided no information about how much its sister organization raised.
House Majority PAC had $37.7 million in cash on hand to begin 2020, while the Congressional Leadership Fund began the year with $28 million, as Republicans seek to win back the majority they lost in 2018.
Super PACs can collect unlimited contributions. While they must report their finances to the FEC, disclosure is incomplete for super PACs that accept contributions from nonprofit groups that don’t reveal donors. Individual contributions made directly to federal candidates are limited to $2,800 per election.
The biggest super PAC contributor to the Democrats in 2019 was presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave $10 million to House Majority PAC in December amid the battle over impeaching President Donald Trump. Bloomberg is the majority owner of Bloomberg Government’s parent company.
Other contributors giving $1 million or more to Democratic super PACs included Newsweb President Fred Eychaner; real estate broker George Marcus; financier Donald Sussman; unions such as Service Employees International Union, United Auto Workers, and Laborers’ International Union; and the Greater New York Hospital Association Management Corp.
The biggest Republican contribution was $10 million from Timothy Mellon. The chairman of transportation holding company Pan Am Systems and grandson of banker Andrew Mellon gave the money in November to Congressional Leadership Fund.
Others giving $1 million or more to the GOP super PACs included Home Depot Inc.‘s founder Bernie Marcus; Charles Schwab, founder of the discount securities brokerage; and investment firm owner Paul Singer. Big donors also included companies such as energy giant ConocoPhillips.
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