Trump dominates GOP money race, DeSantis spends heavily and George Santos goes negative: Takeaways from new campaign finance reports


Donald Trump is dominating GOP primary fundraising as the White House race barrels toward the first nominating contests of 2024, with the former president raising donations at an accelerating pace and building the financial cushion to swamp his rivals on the airwaves and on the ground.

The $24.5 million that poured into Trump’s main campaign account from July to September during the third quarter of the year amounts to more than double the amount collected by the campaign of his closest rival in fundraising, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. And Trump’s haul marked a surge from the $17.7 million his campaign took in during the previous quarter.

New filings Sunday with federal election regulators also highlight the growing chasm between Trump and everyone else seeking the nomination. Prominent Republicans – including Trump’s onetime running mate, former Vice President Mike Pence – are trailing far behind the field as they struggle for attention and money from voters and donors alike.

And the reports show DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, two of Trump’s rivals who have sought to win over the GOP’s deep-pocketed donors, burning through political donations just as the battle for the GOP presidential nomination heats up.

Here are nine takeaways from the new filings and what they say about the fights for the White House and Congress:

DeSantis and Scott spend big

DeSantis took in a little more than $11 million through his main campaign account during the third quarter and spent almost all of it. His campaign spending and high burn rate have been the subject of intense scrutiny as he tries to persuade wealthy GOP donors that he is the viable alternative to Trump.

Payroll topped the DeSantis campaign’s expenses, at more than $1.2 million, though the report showed campaign staff size shrinking to about 60 people by the final month of the quarter, down from about 90 at the start of the fundraising period.

DeSantis’ team slashed positions over the summer, and recently announced that about a third of his staff would shift to Iowa, underscoring the importance of the lead-off caucuses to his presidential hopes.

DeSantis also continued to plow money into private air travel during the summer months before tapering off that activity in September.

Over the summer, his campaign paid at least five companies that provide private air travel and spent an additional $723,000 on travel expenses with one firm, N2024D LLC. CNN has previously reported that the company came into existence two days before DeSantis launched his presidential campaign in May. Its activity has helped shield from public view the mode of DeSantis’ transportation.

Scott, meanwhile, raised nearly $4.6 million during the quarter, but he spent far more: $12.4 million – eating into a cash stockpile he had transferred from his Senate campaign account when he entered the GOP presidential primary.

The reports filed Sunday offer only a partial picture of the money that will shape the 2024 contest for the White House.

All the major candidates are benefitting from spending by outside super PACs, which can raise unlimited sums. Those groups won’t report their financial balance sheets until next year.

Similarly, a joint committee that Trump uses as his main fundraising vehicle was not required to file its report with regulators on Sunday. Trump’s team previously announced raising a total of $45.5 million during the third quarter through that committee.

(Some of the money that flows to the joint fundraising committee is directed to a Trump-aligned leadership PAC that has paid legal expenses in the past for the former president and his allies.)

Haley and Christie conserve cash

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s fundraising grew during the third quarter after two widely praised Republican debate performances.

Her filing also shows her campaign marshalling its resources. Haley’s stockpile of available cash stood at nearly $11.6 million as of September 30 – up from the roughly $4 million that the campaign had remaining in its accounts at the start of the quarter.

Haley’s team said $9.1 million of her cash reserves can be used for the primary.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie raised $3.8 million and reported nearly $4 million in cash on hand after spending comparatively little, $1.5 million, in the third quarter.

Christie, who is focused on a strong primary showing in New Hampshire, ended September with more than $3.9 million in available cash – which his campaign said is all available for the primary election.

Eyes on the Senate

California hosts a high-profile 2024 Senate race, as a crowded field vies to succeed the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Rep. Adam Schiff, one of several prominent Democrats in the race, continued to raise millions for his Senate bid, bringing in over $6.4 million in the third quarter. That’s down from the Los Angeles Democrat’s haul of $8.3 million in the previous period, but Schiff’s campaign also said it had $32 million in the bank on September 30, a massive stockpile of funds bolstered in part by money left over in his House campaign account.

Schiff outraised two other high-profile Democratic opponents, Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. Porter’s report showed her campaign collected $3.4 million and had amassed nearly $12 million in cash on hand by September 30. Lee raised $1 million and closed the quarter with about $1.3 million in the bank.

Meanwhile, new Sen. Laphonza Butler, who was appointed to the job by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month, could also jump into the race, further swelling the field.

With California’s top-two primary system and given the state’s strong blue lean, two Democrats could appear on the general election ballot in November.

In another closely watched Senate contest, Arizona has the potential for a three-way contest if independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema seeks reelection.

Sinema, who left the Democratic Party in December but continues to caucus with her former party mates in the Senate, hasn’t said whether she’ll run, but her fundraising plunged in the third quarter of 2023.

Sinema raised just $826,000 in the July-to-September window, half the $1.65 million she had raised in the previous three-month period. And while the Arizona senator still boasts a formidable war chest of about $10.8 million, the precipitous drop in her fundraising has increased speculation over her political future.

One of Sinema’s top challengers, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, had a strong fundraising quarter by contrast. Gallego raised more than $3 million in the third quarter and had $5 million in cash on hand at September 30.

Arizona Republicans got a high-profile Senate candidate when 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake joined the race earlier this month – after the end of third quarter. Prior to Lake’s entry, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb had been the most high-profile Republican in the race, and he raised about $475,000 in the third quarter.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a vulnerable Democratic incumbent who hasn’t announced his 2024 plans, saw his fundraising lag like Sinema’s. He brought in just $715,000 in the third quarter, down from about $1.2 million in the previous period.

Manchin, who has teased the possibility of mounting an independent presidential campaign, does have significant cash reserves, reporting $11.3 million in the bank on September 30. Among his GOP challengers, outgoing Gov. Jim Justice, raised about $613,000 in the third quarter and reported nearly $1.2 million in cash on hand, while Rep. Alex Mooney hauled in $314,000 and had about $1.6 million banked.

Senate self-funders

In Ohio, two self-funding Republicans – Matt Dolan and Bernie Moreno – poured money into their campaigns to take on veteran Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in the red-trending state.

Dolan, a state senator whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians MLB team, loaned his campaign $3 million in the third quarter, and raised a little over $1 million more. Moreno, a prominent Cleveland businessman, mirrored Dolan’s numbers, also loaning his campaign $3 million and raising a little over $1 million more.

Dolan, who launched his campaign in January, has loaned a total of $7 million to his campaign so far.

Both contenders unsuccessfully ran for the state’s other Senate seat in 2022 and invested heavily in those campaigns, making that year’s Republican primary in Ohio one of the cycle’s most expensive.

Brown, meanwhile, raised $5.8 million in the July-to-September period, up from about $5 million in the previous quarter. The third-term senator closed the period with more than $11.2 million in cash on hand.

Other key Senate fights

Several other Democrats in key swing-state Senate races also hauled in millions in the third quarter.

In Wisconsin, Sen. Tammy Baldwin raised $3.1 million and reported nearly $7 million in the bank as she prepares for what could be one of the top Senate races next year.

In Nevada, Sen. Jacky Rosen raised $2.7 million and had $8.8 million in cash on hand for a race Republicans have identified as a top target after successfully recruiting retired Army Capt. Sam Brown.

Brown, who lost a 2022 bid for the state’s other Senate seat, raised more than $1 million in the third quarter, filings show.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, where Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s retirement has created an open race, Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin reported raising nearly $3 million in the third quarter. A strong fundraiser with experience in a series of close House races, Slotkin has also built up more $5 million in cash reserves.

Hill Harper, an actor running in the Democratic primary, reported raising just over $1 million for his bid and had about $418,000 in cash on hand on September 30.

And in Pennsylvania, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey raised $3.2 million and had nearly $7.4 million on hand for another top race. Republican Dave McCormick is mounting a second Senate bid after narrowly losing a 2022 primary.

McCormick launched his campaign in late September, just before the end of the third-quarter fundraising deadline, but officially filed with the FEC after the deadline.

Kim outraises Menendez

Federal prosecutors last month lodged bribery-related charges against Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, just days before the end of the fundraising quarter.

New filings show the embattled senator raised a little less than $1 million from July to September and had $8.5 million remaining in his campaign coffers at September 30. Menendez has refused to resign and said he believes he will be exonerated.

Rep. Andy Kim, who is challenging Menendez for the Democratic nomination, brought in about $1.2 million in the third quarter, surpassing the longtime senator’s haul. Kim reported nearly $2 million in cash on hand.

George Santos goes negative

The campaign of embattled Rep. George Santos saw a net loss of more than $16,500 during the third quarter, the second time this year that the New York Republican’s campaign has reported spending more than it took in.

Santos brought in $674 in contributions during the fundraising period but refunded more than $17,200.

His dire financial picture underscores the enormous obstacles the freshman lawmaker faces in trying to hold on to his competitive Long Island district.

Santos faces 23 federal criminal charges, including allegations that he embezzled cash from his company and stole donors’ identities and ran up fraudulent charges on their credit cards.

Santos, whose fabrications about his personal life, education and family history have drawn headlines since late last year, has called the charges a “witch hunt” and has insisted he is running for reelection in 2024.

Vulnerable House Republicans stockpile funds

Republicans’ narrow majority in the House of Representatives – on bright display amid the fight over the next speaker – will be tested in 2024, but several of their most vulnerable members reported solid fundraising hauls during the third quarter.

Out of 14 Republicans in seats rated as “toss ups” by The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, seven raised at least $500,000, a good benchmark for competitive House candidates to reach. And 11 of them had at least $1 million in the bank on September 30 for their tougher races.

Meanwhile, out of nine Democrats in toss up races, only two raised at least $500,000, and only three had at least $1 million in cash on hand. And in the toss up race to succeed Slotkin in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, Democratic former state Sen. Curtis Hertel raised over $750,000 and reported over $630,000 cash on hand, bolstering Democrats’ chances of retaining the seat.

RFK Jr. burned through cash in last quarter as a Democrat

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. raised more than $8.7 million during the third quarter and spent $7 million before ending his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination to run as an independent, new filings show.

Kennedy, the scion of a storied Democratic political dynasty, announced his bid as an independent October 9.

Top expenses during the quarter included security and travel costs – at more than $916,000 to California-based Gavin de Becker and Associates for security and travel services. The campaign also reported paying more than $191,000 for a “vehicle purchase” to a Florida RV dealer.

Kennedy had unsuccessfully sought Secret Service protection earlier this year.

Kennedy ended September with $6.1 million in stockpiled cash – putting him on better financial footing than some of the Republicans seeking to topple Trump from his place atop the GOP field.

But mounting an independent bid will require substantial sums. A super PAC supporting Kennedy’s run, American Values 2024, recently said that it had raised more than $11 million within six hours of Kennedy announcing his independent run.

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