U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) takes questions from the media after speaking Aug. 21, 2017, at the UAW in Anderson, Ind., as part of his “Hoosier Highways” RV tour to launch his reelection campaign.  (Don Knight/Anderson Herald Bulletin via Associated Press)

Wealthy Democratic donors are showing their muscle, as their seven-figure checks helped the top Senate Democratic super PAC post its best fundraising haul of the 2018 cycle last month, new federal filings show.

Of the $14 million raised in March by Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Senate Democrats, $9.6 million came from six individual donors who gave at least $1 million each, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday evening.

So far this year, the group has raised $22.1 million — exceeding the $21.8 million it raised in 2017 and bringing its total fundraising to $43 million for the 2018 cycle, filings show.

Senate Democrats face a tough map this year, and the massive haul by the Senate Majority PAC highlights donor momentum building to defend Democratic incumbents in states that President Trump carried in 2016. The most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the five states that Trump carried by 19 points or more — Missouri, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia — are vastly outraising their Republican challengers.

“Our fundraising numbers are strong because across the country we have candidates with impressive records that fit their states,” said Chris Hayden, the super PAC’s spokesman. “Our opportunities in the Senate improve with every passing month.”

The top donor to the Senate Majority PAC in March was Florida-based hedge fund manager S. Donald Sussman, who gave $3.5 million to the group in his largest check to a super PAC so far in the midterms. In 2016, Sussman was one of the leading donors to super PACs supporting Hillary Clinton and Democratic House candidates and has already given $3.75 million.

[Meet the wealthy donors pouring millions into the 2018 elections]

Among the other seven-figure checks the Senate Majority PAC received last month were $2 million from Alexander Soros, philanthropist and son of leading Democratic donor George Soros; $1 million from Deborah J. Simon, philanthropist and daughter of Simon Property Group co-founder Melvin Simon; and $1 million from Haim Saban, chairman of Univision.

Big money is also flowing into the group’s counterpart super PAC on the Republican side, the Senate Leadership Fund, which raised $5.2 million in March, bringing the group’s fundraising total to $28.7 million so far this cycle, FEC records show.

Republican Senate primaries across the country increasingly are getting competitive, with millions of dollars already being spent on negative ads against primary rivals.

Senate Leadership Fund officials told The Washington Post last month that the group is focused on closing the financial gap between Democratic and Senate candidates and is engaging donors early in the fundraising cycle so that GOP candidates can be positioned to make a stronger push in the general election.

Among the major donors in March to the Senate Leadership Fund, which works to elect Senate Republicans, were the trust connected to coal company executive Joseph Craft III, who gave $1 million, and businessman William E. Oberndorf, who also gave $1 million.

[Razor-thin Senate majority, bloody primary fights hamstring GOP]

The Republican National Committee continued to spend big at Trump’s properties in March, monthly spending records filed Friday show. The RNC spent $254,147 in catering and venue rental fees at the Trump National Doral Miami resort and Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private, members-only club in Palm Beach, Fla.

Since the election, Trump’s private businesses have taken in at least $2 million from GOP candidates’ committees, super PACs and the main party committee, according to tax and campaign-finance filings.

The Democratic National Committee, which has lagged far behind its Republican counterpart in fundraising this cycle, raised $7 million in March, bringing the cycle total to $84.4 million.

This post was updated with new data. 

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