For the last time before the 2024 election year, federal political candidates had to reveal their fundraising to the Federal Election Commission by Sunday night, giving us a peek at who is successfully filling their coffers and getting a leg up in next year’s House, Senate and presidential contests.
Here are seven takeaways from third-quarter political fundraising.
Biden Hopes Fundraising Will Smooth Democratic Nerves, With A Catch
President Joe Biden announced raising $71 million in the third quarter, a total far greater than former President Donald Trump’s haul. The Biden campaign’s press release boasted he had more cash on hand than every Republican competing for the GOP nomination combined.
None of this is wrong, but there’s an obvious reason for it. Biden is the de facto nominee of the Democratic Party, and thus has full control of the Democratic National Committee, giving him access to much, much larger donations than the standard maximum donation of $6,600. The maximum donation to Biden’s campaign, after the cash is routed through the DNC and various state parties, is $929,000.
The Biden campaign, which has faced months of rocky polling and questions about donor and voter enthusiasm, also made sure to highlight the growing number of small-dollar donors to his campaign. The campaign has brought in more than 200,000 donors who didn’t give in 2020 and doubled the number of donors who’ve pledged to give every month to 112,000.
Kyrsten Sinema’s Fundraising Hits The Skids
Arizona independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema reported over $10 million in the bank ― an impressive haul that would go a long way if she decides to run for reelection next year in a potentially messy three-way showdown with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and top GOP election denier Kari Lake, who announced her campaign for Senate earlier this month.
But Sinema’s pace of fundraising dropped off markedly over the summer, a development that is sure to add to speculation about her political future. Sinema raised only $826,000 in the third quarter, lagging behind every in-cycle Democratic incumbent. After accounting for expenditures on advertising, Sinema ended the quarter with just $41,000 more in her war chest since last quarter.
Gallego, on the other hand, raised over $3 million, ending the quarter with $5 million cash on hand.
It Turns Out Being Indicted Has Consequences (If You’re A Democrat)
Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) raked in $1.17 million in the third quarter, with nearly $1 million in contributions coming in just seven days after he announced a primary bid against indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). The longtime New Jersey lawmaker is charged with taking bribes and acting as an agent on behalf of a foreign government; many of Menendez’s colleagues have urged him to step down and one even wants him expelled. Compare that to the treatment of Trump, who was rewarded by donations and endorsements by Republicans after his multiple indictments, including over his attempt to overthrow the 2020 election and his alleged mishandling of classified documents.
Kim actually outraised Menendez, who took in $919,000 in the same period. Still, Menendez ― who has denied the federal charges and vowed to contest them in court ― has nearly $8.6 million cash on hand compared to Kim’s $1.9 million.
The Entire GOP Field — Especially Pence — Trails Trump By… A Lot
Former Vice President Mike Pence has had trouble getting traction in a party dominated by his coup-attempting former boss, and his third-quarter fundraising numbers tell the story.
Pence, who stood up to Trump’s attempt to remain in power as an unelected autocrat, enters the key final three months before voting starts with just $1.2 million in the bank and $621,000 in debt, all of it to direct mail firms, after raising a relatively paltry $3.4 million.
Pence’s meager haul stands in major contrast to that of his former boss, who reported raising $24 million. Trump’s campaign initially said it brought in $45 million across three accounts he controls, but his filings revealed a significantly lower number, suggesting expenses related to fundraising that cut into his net haul. Trump still reported $37.5 million cash on hand to spend in the primary — the number his campaign said to expect in the filings.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who reported raising $15 million with $5 million available to spend against Trump in the primary, took second place in the fundraising race among Republican contenders. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley raised over $11 million, with $9 million available as of the beginning of the month to spend in the primary.
Republicans Made Generous Loans To Their Campaigns
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has now spent $22.3 million on his campaign. More than $17 million of that is from himself ($15.25 million technically in the form of loans). He started October with $4.2 million in cash, although that number is kind of meaningless as long as he’s willing to pour his own money into the campaign.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, another long shot candidate, loaned his campaign $2 million last quarter.
Burgum’s money didn’t all come from his own coffers: He reported raising $3.4 million in individual contributions, which was enough to get him onstage in the first two Republican debates. But that was likely due to a fundraising gimmick the former software executive used to raise small-donor donations: giving $20 gift cards to people who contributed as little as $1 to his campaign. Burgum is currently offering donors the same amount in gas cards.
George Santos Refunded More Than He Took In
Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who faces new federal charges in a superseding indictment that came down last week, ended the quarter having refunded more money than he raised.
His campaign reported barely $23,000 cash on hand at the beginning of October for what’s guaranteed to be a challenging reelection in a swing district. Primary challengers have already lined up to take him on. Santos maintains that despite the numerous charges against him — which include fraud, conspiracy and identity theft — he is nonetheless running for reelection in New York’s 3rd Congressional District.
Santos, whose former treasurer pleaded guilty this month in a scheme to defraud donors, ended the quarter with an almost $17,000 net loss in contributions and $750,000 in debt, which includes a $500,000 loan he previously claimed to have given the campaign.
Potential Senate GOP Headaches Fall Flat
Senate Republicans have zeroed in on three Democrat-held seats in red states ― West Virginia, Montana and Ohio ― as key to their hopes of winning the Senate in 2024. A potential threat to their plans in West Virginia and Montana, at least, has been weaker (or at least less establishment-friendly) candidates winning GOP primaries.
The fundraising numbers out of Montana and West Virginia might help D.C. Republicans sleep easier at night. Their preferred candidates, businessman Tim Sheehey in Montana and Gov. Jim Justice in West Virginia, performed better than some of their potential rivals: Justice raised $935,000 and Sheehey raised $2.8 million.
Meanwhile, Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) each raised less than $500,000 in the first quarter, with Mooney bringing in just $410,000 and Rosendale raising a mere $334,000. Both candidates may get a boost from the Club for Growth, a moneyed conservative group, though the group is unsure if it will ultimately back Rosendale, who has yet to officially announce a campaign.
The Democrats in those states had distinctly different quarters: Sen. Jon Tester of Montana raised $5 million, while Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has yet to officially decide on a run, raised just $714,000. Both men have impressive cash-on-hand totals: $13 million for Tester and $11.3 million for Manchin.
The third race Republicans are counting on in their efforts to flip control of the 51-49 Senate is Ohio, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown raised $5.8 million. Republicans don’t have a preferred candidate in the race, though Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose raised $1 million; businessman Bernie Moreno’s campaign raised $4 million, including $3 million of his own money; and State Sen. Matt Dolan matched Moreno, donating $3 million of his own money and raising $4 million overall.
S.V. Dáte contributed reporting.