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Biden flexes his cash advantage, GOP megadonors spend big in latest FEC filings

President Biden and the Democratic groups allied with his campaign continue to demonstrate an enormous cash advantage over Donald Trump’s presidential effort with nearly six months until the election.

Down the ballot, new Federal Election Commission filings from the first quarter of 2024 show a leading Democratic super PAC outpacing its GOP counterpart in the battle for the Senate. And in several key Senate races, Democratic hopefuls outraised their Republican rivals.

Democrats’ hopes of maintaining control of the U.S. Senate — where they have a slim 51-49 majority — has long looked difficult because the 2024 map is far more favorable to Republicans. Democrats are trying to defend 23 seats in the Senate — including three held by independents who caucus with Democrats — while Republicans need to hold just 11. The Democratic Party’s task is complicated by the fact that they are all but certain to lose the seat of retiring Sen. Joe Manchin III, a conservative Democrat in deep-red West Virginia

Democratic groups are pouring resources into Ohio and Montana to help incumbent Sens. Sherrod Brown and Jon Tester defend their seats in states Trump carried in 2016 and 2020. Democrats are also defending their Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nevada — states that are key to the presidential race — as well as Michigan, where Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow is retiring. Both Michigan and Arizona are open seats.

The Senate Leadership Fund, which supports Republicans, posted strong numbers in the first quarter of the year — raising $26 million, nearly doubling their cash on hand ($59.5 million). But Senate Majority PAC, an independent group associated with Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, outperformed its Republican counterparts — raising nearly $38.9 million during the quarter and ending the three-month period with $92 million in cash on hand. Senate Majority PAC has reserved $239 million in ads to defend seats in seven states.

Congressional Republicans have expressed concerns about their ability to hold to the party’s slim House majority in November. Those fears have been amplified in recent weeks by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s threat to try to oust Speaker Mike Johnson over a Ukraine funding dispute, as well as the looming departure of Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who will vacate his seat at the end of the week Gallagher’s exit will leave Republicans with a one-vote majority — their smallest in decades.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC which is supporting Republican House candidates across the country, reported raising $18.8 million in the first quarter and ended the period with $68.6 million in cash. House Majority PAC, which backs Democrats, will not file its report until April 20. But the group has said it raised $37 million with its affiliated organization House Majority Forward in the first quarter — demonstrating its advantage over CLF.

Though reports filed Monday continued to show Biden’s huge cash advantage over Trump, they also offered a partial picture of the big money flowing into a new Trump super PAC, Right for America, which raised $13 million in the first quarter and spent nothing. The major donors to the committee were Ike and Laura Perlmutter, who donated $10.1 million, and Anthony Lomangino, the Palm Beach-based chairman and founder of Southern Waste Systems who gave $1.1. million.

The leadership PAC that Trump has primarily used to pay his legal fees, Save America, will not file its next report until April 20. But Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, spent $1.7 million on legal fees in the first quarter through another committee, Make America Great Again PAC. That group also spent $400,000 on “document hosting” fees that are often related to discovery in legal cases. Trump spent more than $55 million on legal fees in 2023, creating a strain on overall fundraising effort as he fights criminal charges in four cases.

The Biden campaign announced earlier this month that it raised more than $90 million in March and that broader Biden effort had about $192 million in cash at the end of the month — more than double what their rivals are holding in their war chest. Reports from some Biden committees, alongside Democratic super PACs, showed the generosity of top Democratic donors such as megadonor James Simons, who gave $2.5 million each to Future Forward super PAC and Senate Majority PAC in the first three months of the year. He was joined by businessman Fred Eychaner, Kenneth and Jennifer Duda of Menlo Park, Calif., and others in writing seven-figure checks to Future Forward, which raised $20 million in the first quarter of the year and has promised to spend $250 million on ads supporting Biden.

One notable donor to Biden’s effort was David Ellison, the CEO of Skydance Media, who gave the maximum of $929,600 to the Biden Victory Fund in the first quarter. David Ellison is the son of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who has backed Trump in previous cycles and donated millions of dollars in the 2024 cycle to committees that were supporting South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott when he ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination.

By comparison, the Trump campaign and the RNC said they raised $65.6 million in March and ended the month with about $93 million in cash. Trump is raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee after his contested primary race for the GOP nomination, and has immersed himself in the effort to close the gap with Democrats in recent months. Trump’s new joint fundraising committee with the RNC, Trump 47 Committee, brought in $23.6 million, and nearly all of it in the month of March.

Prior to a Palm Beach fundraiser this month that the Republican National Committee said raised more than $50.5 million, Trump held frequent calls with donors and kept close tabs on which donors had written a check for the maximum of more than $800,000. The money from those checks is divided among Trump’s campaign, Save America, the RNC and more than three dozen state party committees.

Trump’s fundraising efforts appear to be paying off. The Trump 47 committee collected checks totaling more than $800,000 from Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge fund magnate; Linda McMahon, the former professional wrestling executive who served as Trump’s head of the Small Business Association; Casino mogul Phil Ruffin; Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, and his wife Suzanne; and Joe Ricketts, who is the founder of TD Ameritrade.

Democrats in some of the most closely watched Senate races have sprinted out to an advantage over their Republican competitors. In Arizona for example, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) has $9.6 million in his campaign account versus $2.5 million for Republican Kari Lake.

Sam Brown, a retired U.S. Army captain and Purple Heart recipient who is challenging Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen and has the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, raised about half as much as the $5 million Rosen raised during the first quarter. Rosen had $13 million in cash on hand at the end of the period to Brown’s $2.3 million.

Brown’s GOP rival Jeff Gunter, an independently wealthy physician who has played up his ties to Trump as his former ambassador to Iceland, loaned his campaign $2.7 million. Gunter recently told Fox News that he intends to spend at least $3.3 million on ads in Nevada to boost his candidacy before the June primary. The ad introduces Gunter as “Trump’s ambassador” and states that he is “110% pro-Trump.”

Though some Democratic incumbents posted an impressive total in hotly contested Senate races, Republicans have fielded several wealthy candidates who can fund their own campaigns including Tim Sheehy in Montana and Eric Hovde in Wisconsin, both of whom are backed by Trump.

Hovde, a banking executive who is challenging Baldwin, reported Monday that he had raised $9 million in the first quarter of this year — including $8 million that he loaned to himself. At the end of March, he reported $5.35 million in cash to Baldwin’s more than $10 million. Baldwin raised $5.4 million over the first three months of the year and spent $3.1 million.

Tim Sheehy, the former Navy SEAL challenging Tester in Montana, loaned another $500,000 to his Senate campaign — bringing the total that he has loaned to his campaign to $1.45 million so far this cycle. The Republican candidate, who owns an aerial firefighting business, has been at the center of controversy in the Montana race after The Washington Post detailed the inconsistent accounts he has given over the years about his war wounds.

Sheehy reported $1.9 million in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter after raising $3 million and spending about $2.4 million. The Montanans for Tester reported raising $8 million during the quarter; spending $6.4 million and ending the three month period with about $12.6 million in cash on hand.

Ken Griffin, one of the biggest donors to the Republican Party who ultimately put money behind the super PAC supporting Nikki Haley in her battle against Trump, is turning his attention to Senate and House races.

Griffin donated $10 million to newly formed super PAC, Maryland’s Future, at a moment when former governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, is making a play for the Senate seat in a blue state.

Hogan upended the race when he made a surprise entrance earlier this year, and a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released in March showed him leading his Democratic rivals by double-digits. Several Democrats — including Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks — (D) are facing off in the May 14 primary for the seat that is being vacated by retiring Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). Trone loaned his campaign another $18.5 million in the first quarter and reported less than a $1 million in cash. Monday’s reports show that Trone has now loaned more than $41.7 million to his campaign.

Griffin also gave $4 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund in March and $5 million to American Patriots PAC, which aims to elect conservative veterans to Congress. Republican megadonor Paul Singer also gave $1 million to American Patriots group, which has spent very little so far. American Patriots PAC placed ads earlier this year in support of Republican Laurie Buckhout, a retired Army colonel who is vying against Democratic Rep. Don Davis in North Carolina’s 1st District. The Cook Political Report has cast that race as a toss-up.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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