Congressional leaders raked in millions for ‘most expensive election in history’

Mitch McConnell (R), Chuck Schumer (D), Kevin McCarthy (R) and Hakeem Jeffries (D)

By Dylan Manshack | OpenSecrets

As 2024 gears up for what’s anticipated to be the most expensive election in history, new fundraising totals lend insight into the tens of millions of dollars congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have raised through the end of June this year.

Though only half of the congressional leaders reviewed in this article will be up for reelection in 2024, fundraising never stops for American politicians in a post-Citizens United landscape.

The cost of elections has skyrocketed since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that enabled corporations to spend unlimited funds on elections.

In the years following, it became increasingly expensive to run for office. New quarterly FEC filings underscore the political reality that Congress needs more than votes to win elections.

They need money — and lots of it. 

Through campaigns and leadership PACs, an OpenSecrets analysis of FEC filings found party leaders from the House and Senate have collectively raised $40 million with Republican leadership commanding a significant lead in cash on hand over their Democratic counterparts.

This chart shows congressional leaders with most amount of cash on hand as of July 2023. (Graphic by Dylan Manshack / OpenSecrets)

Five congressional leaders from the Democratic Party collectively have $19 million cash on hand, while the Republican leaders in Congress hold a whopping $47 million cash on hand. 

Cash on hand is the most important number for any campaign, as it shows the amount of money candidates actually have in the bank after expenses, indicating their financial firepower in elections.

In the graphic above, the total cash on hand amounts under each representative includes campaign and leadership PAC fundraising totals.In the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) raised the most money, raking in $10.6 million in campaign funds this cycle and ending the quarter with $13 million cash on hand, an OpenSecrets’ review of FEC filings found. 

Comparatively, House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) trails McCarthy. The top House Democrat raised $6.7 million in campaign funds this cycle and ended the quarter with around $5.5 million cash on hand, according to FEC filings.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has raised more than any other congressional leader outside of McCarthy this election cycle, raking in $6.3 million and ending the quarter with around $8.2 million cash on hand. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) raised $1.4 million this cycle and has the largest amount of cash on hand coming in at $17.8 million according to FEC filings

This is slightly less than the combined $19 million cash on hand that all five Democratic congressional leaders have reported. Despite Thune’s massive amount of cash on hand, he is not up for reelection until 2028.

On the Democratic side of the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) raised about $768,000 from his campaign committee and leadership PAC, ending with $9.6 million cash on hand FEC filings show. Schumer is also not up for reelection until 2028 but has the most cash on hand compared to the other Democratic congressional leaders OpenSecrets reviewed.

Who donated the most to congressional leadership? 

While thousands of donations from individuals make up the lion’s share of contributions to congressional leaders each quarter, recent FEC filings also show which political action committees gave the most money to congressional leaders in the current election cycle.

PACs function to pool campaign contributions from donors and then donate that money to campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives or legislation. Most PACs represent business, labor or ideological interests. 

The PAC representing Deloitte, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, was among the largest donors to congressional leaders this cycle. The Deloitte LLP PAC directly contributed $60,000 in total to the campaigns of Schumer, Jeffries, Clark, McCarthy, McConnell, Scalise and Emmer.

In the 2021-2022 election cycle, the Deloitte LLP PAC gave more to Democrats than Republicans for the first time since 1992. Despite the shift, the PAC’s contributions remained fairly bipartisan with 52.33% of its roughly $1.4 million in contributions going to Democrats and 47.50% going to Republicans.

ATU-COPE, the Amalgamated Transit Union’s PAC, a union representing 200,000 public transit workers in North America, was also among the largest donors to congressional leadership. Democratic leadership including Schumer, Clark and Jeffries collectively received $17,500 from the union’s PAC this cycle while no contributions went to Republican leadership.

In a statement, the ATU expressed dissatisfaction with Republicans in the House citing $2.3 billion in proposed cuts to public transit systems in U.S. House Transit Appropriations Bills. 

“Cutting funding to already cash-strapped public transit agencies is cutting off a lifeline to progress, equality, and sustainability.” said ATU International President John Costa who blames House Republicans for “trying to make it more difficult for people to get around.”

The PAC that facilitated a significant amount of contributions this cycle as one of the largest conduits on recent filings was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an ideologically oriented pro-Israel PAC.

AIPAC acted as an intermediary for about $629,000 in donations to party leaders on both sides of the aisle. In other words, the PAC did not donate this amount directly to the campaigns of congressional leaders. Instead, the PAC steered about $420,000 in contributions from individual donors to Jeffries and $272,000 to McCarthy according to FEC filings from April and July 2023.

AIPAC represents one of the most well-financed and politically powerful forces on American foreign affairs that looks to continue America’s military and fiscal support of the Jewish nation-state. Total U.S. aid to Israel obligated from 1946-2023 is an estimated $260 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding, adjusted for inflation.

At present, almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance. From 1971 to 2007, Israel also received significant economic assistance. Last month, tensions rose in Congress over U.S. financial support of Israel as some progressive members boycotted a joint session of Congress that hosted a speech by Israeli President Isaac Herzog. Jewish groups in the US have also condemned a recent Israeli parliament vote to limit the power of the country’s judiciary as a threat to democracy and warned that it could damage relations with American Jews.

Other companies with PACs among the largest donors to congressional leaders this cycle include Lockheed MartinGeneral MotorsHoneywellDelta AirlinesComcast and Dell

While the contributions in this article come from publicly available FEC filings, “dark money” has skyrocketed in recent cycles on par with the increasing cost of elections.

Federal campaign finance law requires political committees including super PACs to disclose donors, but the ultimate source of their funding can be concealed behind contributions from shell companies or nonprofits that do not disclose their donors. 

According to a recent OpenSecrets analysis, the 2022 midterm elections saw a record breaking amount of undisclosed donations. As the 2024 presidential election draws near, a continued flood of contributions to reach new heights in disclosed and undisclosed contributions boosting political campaigns is anticipated. 

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