Republican Party committees and party-linked super political action committees have opened up a big lead over Democrats in campaign fundraising this year, cashing in on control of the White House and Congress.
The three national committees of the Republican Party raised a combined total of about $163.4 million in the first half of 2017, about 30 percent more than the $126.8 million raised by their Democratic counterparts, according to the most recent disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Super political action committees linked to Republican leaders in Congress have a much bigger edge, percentage-wise. The main House and Senate Republican super PACs had combined receipts of $21.4 million for the first half of the year. That was nearly three times the $7.8 million total of the Democrats’ main House and Senate super PACs.
Super PACs can receive unlimited contributions from wealthy individuals, corporations and unions, while national party committees can receive individual contributions up to $101,700 for special accounts to fund party conventions, party headquarters and legal costs. The Republicans’ fundraising advantage is tied to the GOP’s ability to raise large amounts from wealthy supporters and corporations, though the GOP also has had increased success recently in small-dollar fundraising with the help of President Donald Trump.
Democrats also have relied on wealthy individual supporters, as well as unions, for big contributions but have raised far fewer high-dollar donations than Republicans for their main party committees and super PACs. Democrats have seen more success in small-dollar fundraising, with the Democratic PAC ActBlue—an independent group, different from the party committees or super PACs—raising over $190 million in smaller contributions so far this year to help fund Democratic candidates.
FEC reports showed the Republican advantage in party fundraising is due almost entirely to the Republican National Committee, which with help from a joint fundraising committee linked to Trump raised $75.4 million in the first half of the year. That was about twice the $38.2 million total received by the Democratic National Committee.
The Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees, meanwhile, are running about even in fundraising. The Democrats’ House committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, raised $59.9 million in the first half of the year—just shy of the $60 million raised by the National Republican Congressional Committee. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $28.7 million, slightly more than the $27.9 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The Republicans’ main House and Senate super PACs have large fundraising leads over their Democratic counterparts. The Congressional Leadership Fund, aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Republican leaders, had receipts of $13.1 million in the first half of the year. That is more than four times the $3.2 million in receipts reported by the House Majority PAC, which is linked to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House Democratic leaders.
The Senate Leadership Fund, linked to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other GOP leaders, has collected $8.3 million in the first half of 2017—nearly twice the $4.6 million in receipts by its Democratic counterpart, the Senate Majority PAC.
Big contributions to the Senate Leadership Fund came from wealthy Republican donors but also from companies. Energy giant Chevron Corp. gave $700,000 to the Senate GOP super PAC in March, FEC reports show. A $500,000 contribution came from Florida utility NextEra Energy, while contributions of $100,000 each came from the private prison company Geo Corrections Holdings Inc. and insurer C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.
Chevron also gave $250,000 in March to the Congressional Leadership Fund, bringing the company’s total contributions to the GOP super PACs this year to nearly $1 million. Chevron remains one of the few well-known, publicly traded corporations that frequently makes disclosed contributions to super PACs.
Most other big companies shy away from open political giving, but some contribute to politically active trade associations and nonprofits. These organizations can spend money to influence elections without revealing their donors. The Congressional Leadership Fund has received nearly half its funding this year—more than $6 million—from the American Action Network, a nonprofit organization that doesn’t disclose its donors but is known to have received corporate money.
The Democratic super PACs have relied on wealthy Democratic donors for most of their funding this year. Democratic super PACs also have been funded by big contributions from unions, including the Laborers’ International Union, National Association of Letter Carriers and United Auto Workers.
In addition, Democratic super PACs have received some corporate money, though not as much as Republican groups. For example, the latest FEC report from the Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC disclosed contributions received this year of $25,000 each from health insurance company Anthem Inc., drug company Merck & Co., and the drug industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
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