First quarter fundraising winners (and losers)

Tuesday wasn't just the deadline to file your taxes. It was also the deadline for congressional candidates to file their fundraising totals from the first three months of 2014 with the Federal Election Commission.


Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn had another big fundraising quarter. (AP Images/Kevin Wolf for A Billion + Change)

With under seven months to go until the midterm election and with many key primaries coming up much sooner, money is starting to mean more and more. Below we take stock of who overwhelmed and underwhelmed in the first quarter of the year, in alphabetical order.

Winners

Tom Cotton: The political obituary of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) may have been written too soon. But that doesn't mean the Republican congressman isn't a major obstacle standing between him and another term. A reminder of Cotton's strength: He outraised Pryor once again, $1.35 million to $1.22 million.

EMILY's List backed-candidates: Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) ($2.7 million), Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) ($2.8 million) and Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn (D) ($2.4 million) were Senate standouts once again. Grimes outraised Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for the second time, and Hagan and Nunn far outpaced their opponents as well. Lesser-known candidates backed by the women's group also did well. Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice (D) brought in almost $1.5 million in her bid for the seat of retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.); attorney Gwen Graham (D) nearly matched Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.); and underdog West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) kept it close against Senate frontrunner Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). Some of EMILY's List's success lies in aligning itself with capable fundraisers. But the organization has made a mark, too. Bundled donations and PAC checks from the group to its endorsed candidates total $5.5 million so far this election cycle.

Super PACs: It was looking there for a while like 501(c)(4) nonprofits would take control off the 2014 election, but their fellow outside groups – super PACs – asserted themselves in the first quarter. Senate Majority PAC pulled in $11 million to help Democrats keep the Senate, and the leading GOP super PAC American Crossroads awoke from its slumber to raise more than $5 million in March alone. Both totals trumped those super PACs’ hauls from the entire 2013 calendar year.

Dan Sullivan: The former Alaska attorney general ($1.3 million) outraised Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) ($1 million) once again. Sullivan is now the clear frontrunner for the GOP nomination and has secured both national tea party and GOP establishment support. Alaska is an inexpensive state, so money doesn't buy a win. But when you outraise the incumbent two quarters in a row, it's one heck of a statement to make.

Virginia TV stations: A few months back, these folks were probably expecting a rather sleepy campaign season, with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) looking quite popular without a serious challenge. Now that former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie is in the race, though, both sides are raising big money. Warner pulled in $2.7 million for the first quarter, while Gillespie raised $2.2 million. After the 2013 governor’s race, these stations should be so lucky.

Losers

Georgia Republicans: Yes, Rep. Jack Kingston raised a solid $1.1 million, and businessman David Perdue won’t want for money given his personal wealth. But the rest of the field laid an egg in the first quarter. Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey and former secretary of state Karen Handel each raised less than $350,000. And all of their numbers pale in comparison to Nunn. The GOP nominee will start out in a sizeable cash hole – especially given the likelihood of a GOP runoff.

Pat Roberts: The Kansas senator is facing an unexpected primary challenge from physician Milton Wolf on Aug. 5. And instead of blowing Wolf out of the water, Roberts has raised money rather slowly, pulling in only about half a million dollars in the first quarter. By contrast, Sen. Thad Cochran (R) raised $1.7 million in the first quarter for his primary in another small state, Mississippi. Roberts said he was going to raise $5 million for his reelection campaign; he’s only about halfway there.

Tea party primary challengers: Club for Growth-backed attorney Bryan Smith (R) raised $137,000 in the first quarter, only about a third of Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the incumbent he is trying to unseat. Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), who is backed by the Club and the Senate Conservatives Fund, pulled in less than a third of Cochran's total. The Republicans running against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) finished well off his pace. And we haven't seen numbers yet from Wolf in Kansas, suggesting his totals were less than stellar. As we've written, the field of tea party candidates challenging Republican incumbents is wider than it is deep.

John Walsh: The Montana Democrat was sworn in as a senator in early February. But his new title didn't enable him to keep pace with Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in the money chase. Walsh raised over $946,000 while Daines brought in $1.2 million.

 Must-reads: 

"Bloomberg Plans a $50 Million Challenge to the N.R.A." -- Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times

"Google faces new pressure from states to crack down on illegal online drug sales" -- Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger, Washington Post

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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