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Campaign Cash
October 23, 2018

There are wealthy Democrats throwing money at the 2018 midterms, on track to be the most expensive election in U.S. history, but nobody in either party comes close to Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. With a recent $25 million donation to the GOP super PAC the Senate Leadership Fund, the Adelsons have now given Republicans $113 million through September to help them hold both houses of Congress, surpassing the $82.6 million the couple spent during the entire 2016 election cycle.

The late cash infusion by Adelson, a casino magnate worth an estimated $33.4 billion, is the "new benchmark for the most any individual household has spent on one election — including campaign committees, parties, and PACs — since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010," Roll Call reports, citing OpenSecrets data. "The rankings by OpenSecrets do not include donations through 501(c)(4) 'dark money' groups."

Thanks largely to this unprecedented political largesse, Republicans have passed Democrats in cash for the final stretch of the 2018 campaign, CNN reports. The Adelsons contributed two-thirds of the Senate Leadership Fund's haul last month, and a good share of the House GOP super PAC's windfall, too. The Adelson-flush GOP super PACs have at least evened out the advantage individual Democrats had from outraising their GOP rivals in competitive races.

"There's an intensity to these midterm elections that has been boiling since Election Day 2016," says Sheila Krumholz at the Center for Responsive Politics. But the small-donor furor fueling the Democrats "may not matter as much" on Election Day if one or two large Republican donors can make up the difference. That money may not overcome Democratic enthusiasm to vote in House races, but ProPublica has a long look at Adelson's healthy return on investment. Peter Weber

October 16, 2018

If campaign money is speech, as Republicans have argued, Democrats simply have more to say leading up to the 2018 midterms.

At least 60 House Democratic candidates raised more than $1 million in the third quarter, from July to Sept. 30, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Monday night, ahead of a midnight Federal Election Commission filing deadline. Eight of those Democrats raised more than $3 million apiece, a huge number for a midterm election. "Democrats outraised their Republican opponents in 32 of the closest 45 House races by a total margin of $154 million to $108 million since November 2016," The New York Times reports. Overall, House Democratic candidates have raised $252 million this election versus $172 million by House Republican candidates.

Democratic Senate candidates in the nine most competitive races have raised $212 million, versus $164 million by their Republican rivals, The Washington Post reports, and the Democrat has outraised the Republican in each of those nine races — including vulnerable Democrats like Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.). In Texas, Rep. Beto O'Rourke raised a record $38.1 million in the third quarter, trouncing incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz's $11.6 million.

The Democrats' fundraising is being driven by donations of $200 or less — ActBlue, which steers online donations to Democratic candidates, says it raised $385 million in the third quarter, with an average contribution of $49. Republican super PACs are making up some of the GOP shortfall — casino magnate Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave at least $32 million to Republican committees and PACs in September alone, raising their total this cycle to $87 million, with more coming — and President Trump has been a fundraising powerhouse for GOP candidates.

"You don't buy your way into office, but this kind of money makes victory possible in scenarios where it otherwise might not have been," campaign finance expert Bob Biersack tells The New York Times. And this quarter "is probably going to be the largest quarter in the history of midterms," thanks to small-dollar donations to Democrats. Peter Weber

October 26, 2016

Donald Trump's presidential campaign has "kind of wound down" its formal fundraising with the Trump Victory fund, a joint fundraising endeavor with the Republican National Committee that serves as a major source of campaign cash for the RNC and its ground game, Trump national campaign chairman Steven Mnunchin tells The Washington Post. The joint committee's last high-dollar fundraiser was on Oct. 19 in Las Vegas, and there are no more scheduled until election day.

The Trump campaign called the report "completely misleading," with Mnunchin telling NBC News, "we continue to do fundraising for Trump Victory." Lew Eisenberg, a top RNC fundraiser and chairman of Trump Victory, told The Washington Post he and Mnunchin have been working together "to raise money from major donors" over the phone. "We have no organized calendar of events for the next 14 days," he said, but "when the opportunity presents itself, we will have ad hoc fundraisers" with Trump or his running mate.

Mnunchin told The Post that "the online fundraising continues to be strong," and that the Trump campaign has "big media buys, we have a terrific ground game." Most of the money Trump raises online goes to his campaign, not the RNC, while the Trump Victory events, which can raise up to $449,000 a person, give a much bigger share to the RNC for down-ballot races and get-out-the-vote efforts. Hillary Clinton held her last big scheduled fundraiser on Tuesday night in Miami, though surrogates will appear at 41 events in the next two weeks. Her campaign has raised more than twice as much money as Trump's. Peter Weber

September 19, 2016

Never before has a Republican presidential candidate enjoyed as much success with small donors as Donald Trump has. Politico reported Monday that, particularly in the last "few months," Trump has "unleashed an unprecedented deluge of small-dollar donations for the GOP":

Trump has only been actively soliciting cash for a few months, but when he reveals his campaign's financials later this week they will show he has crushed the total haul from small-dollar donors of the last two Republican nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney — during the entirety of their campaigns.

All told, Trump is approaching, and has possibly already passed, $100 million from donors who have given less than $200, according to an analysis of available Federal Election Commission filings, the campaign's public statements, and people familiar with his fundraising operation. It is a threshold no previous Republican has ever achieved in a single campaign. And Trump has done so less than three months after signing his first email solicitation for donors on June 21 — a staggering speed to collect such a vast sum. [Politico]

Now, Trump still has a long way to go before he catches up to the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and President Obama, both known for their small donation prowess. However, Politico reported that while Hillary Clinton still holds the lead with 2.3 million donors at the end of August, Trump's campaign reported he has "zoomed to 2.1 million donors in the last three months alone."

Read the full story on Trump's small donor success over at Politico. Becca Stanek

August 30, 2016

Donald Trump spent all last fall and much of the winter defying the conventional wisdom about presidential campaigns, and he's apparently hoping to ride his unorthodox campaign choices all the way to victory in the November election, according to Federal Election Commission filings examined by The Wall Street Journal. Half of his campaign's 10 highest-paid consultants have never worked for another presidential campaign, for example, versus just one of Hillary Clinton's top 10 consultants.

"Trump wants people with fire in the belly," not necessarily experience, political consultant Stuart Jolly tells The Journal. "Loyalty is right up there at the top." Don McGahn, the Trump campaign's general counsel, added: "Fresh thinking is good." Despite earlier frugality, Trump is increasing his campaign spending, though he still isn't paying much for TV ads or field operations, outsourcing much of his get-out-the-vote effort to the Republican National Committee.

Notably, $15 million of the $90 million he spent through July — or about 17 percent of his total spending — was "paid to companies linked to himself or his children, or to reimburse their travel expenses," The Wall Street Journal said. That includes a total of $881,000 paid in rent for his campaign headquarters inside his own Trump Tower, a number that caught people's attention when the monthly rent jumped 500 percent as soon as campaign donors started footing the bill, even though Trump's staff didn't grow.

A Trump spokesman told The Journal that Trump raised his own rent because he expanded the office space in anticipation of more campaign staff, and his general counsel, McGahn, said the use of campaign funds at Trump properties — including at least five Trump golf resorts, three Trump restaurants, and a wine company owned by son Eric Trump — complies with FEC rules and is only logical: "It makes perfect sense to me that you're going to use facilities that you know are of a certain quality." Read more about Trump's campaign spending at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

August 4, 2016

On Wednesday, Donald Trump's campaign announced that it raised $82 million in July along with the Republican National Committee, thanks largely to a windfall of small donations. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee raised $90 million in the same month, including $63 million for Clinton's campaign. The hefty haul for Trump follows an anemic June, when Trump and the RNC raised $52.3 million, mostly from a handful of mega-donors, and May, when Trump reported only $1.3 million in the bank.

The numbers in both Clinton's and Trump's reports are preliminary, and more information will be available when they file their Federal Election Commission reports by Aug. 20. The Trump-RNC haul includes $64 million raised online and through direct mailings — an effort the RNC has been working to ramp up since 2012 — plus $16 million from 20 big-dollar fundraisers, and $2 million from Trump himself. Trump's campaign began August with $37 million; Clinton started the month with $58 million. Peter Weber

June 21, 2016

The Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns released their most recent finance reports on Monday night, and if money were votes and the election was on June 1, Clinton would have won in a landslide. In May, Trump brought in $3.1 million, gave his campaign another $2.2 million loan — bringing his personal loan total to about $46 million — and began June with $1.3 million in the bank, or less than the $3.8 million a month the Clinton campaign spends to employ 683 staffers. Clinton raised more than $28 million in May, beginning June with a war chest of $42 million. Her main super PAC raised another $12 million, while the main pro-Trump super PAC, Great America PAC, brought in just over $1 million

Trump's fundraising numbers are "disastrously bad," says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post, and his "paltry fundraising last month is totally inexplicable given that he effectively secured the Republican presidential nomination on May 3." The "stunning gap" between his haul and Clinton's "virtually guarantees Clinton advantages in every aspect of the campaign," Cillizza adds. "If fundraising is, at its root, a test of whether you can get people to vote for you with their checkbooks, Trump failed in May. And he failed with every possible advantage working for him: Momentum, decent-to-good polling and, at least for part of the month, a Republican Party that seemed willing to unify behind him."

The Republican National Committee is doing better, bringing in $13 million in May and beginning June with $20 million in the bank an $7 million in debt; the Democratic National Committee brought in $12.3 million, but ended May with only $9 million in the bank and $7.9 million in debt. The GOP is getting some extra help in its efforts to keep its majority in the Senate, with the Freedom Partners Action Fund, led by Charles and David Koch, bringing in $8 million for that effort and beginning June with $14 in cash on hand. Sen. Bernie Sanders also reported his numbers Monday night — he raised $15.7 million in May and began June with $9.2 million in the bank. Peter Weber

May 19, 2016

Perhaps you've heard Donald Trump sharply criticize Nabisco, Carrier, and Ford for closing down U.S. manufacturing facilities and moving those jobs to Mexico, China, or some other country, or recall his proposed boycott of Apple. According to a financial disclosure form Trump's campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday, and made public Wednesday, Trump owns stocks and bonds in all of those companies (or their parent companies). According to Bloomberg News, he's earned up to $75,000 from bonds issued by Nabisco (Mondalez International), Ford, and Carrier (United Technologies Corp.) since January 2015. He currently holds $1.1 million to $2.25 million in Apple stock.

Overall, since his last financial disclosure statement in July 2015, Trump's declared liquid wealth had decreased from $78 million-$232 million to the $61 million-$173 million in Tuesday's disclosure. The FEC filing is designed to flag conflicts of interest, not reveal wealth, but The Wall Street Journal determined from looking through the report that Trump has increased his revenue from licensing his name overseas but lost income from his beauty pageant and menswear businesses.

Trump reported $800,000 in income from paid speaking engagements since January 2015, but none of those were after he announced his presidential candidacy (last July, he reported $1.75 million from seven paid speeches between January 2014 and July 2015). Hillary Clinton released her FEC filing Tuesday, and it showed that she earned $1.7 million for speeches in the 16 months before she announced her candidacy, while Bill Clinton earned $5 million through November 2015. Hillary Clinton's biggest investment, $5 million to $25 million, is in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund. Peter Weber

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