Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 21, 2014

Costly Midterms Fuel Hundreds of Joint Fundraising Committees

House and Senate candidates are stockpiling campaign cash for the costliest midterms on record by making good use of the multi-politician war chests known as joint fundraising committees.

Since the Supreme Court’s April 2 McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling to overturn aggregate campaign contribution limits, 37 federal candidates have set up joint committees to raise campaign cash. The total number of joint fundraising accounts registered with the FEC now tops 450, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

More specifically:

  • Amid a $12 million ad blitz leveled by GOP outside groups, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., has helped launch no fewer than 17 joint committees that have collectively netted more than $1 million.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, whose race could attract as much as $100 million in spending, has a hand in four joint campaign accounts that have raised $3.4 million between them.
  • More recently, Republicans created a new joint committee that will raise money collectively for 10 GOP House challengers and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

These joint fundraising committees enable anywhere from two to two dozen or more candidates to raise money collectively and to split the proceeds. The joint committees often revolve around exclusive fundraising shindigs that offer big donors access to big-name committee chairs and party leaders. State and local party committees and even PACs also get in on the act.

It’s too early to say whether such joint committees will now skyrocket in size and number, as some predict, and whether they’ll come to deserve the nicknames they’ve inspired, such as “max PACs” and “super JFCs.” The McCutcheon ruling frees joint campaign committees to collect checks as big as $3.6 million from a single donor, watchdogs warn. But the amount distributed to each individual participating candidate will still be capped at $2,600 per election.

Either way, joint accounts are already raising hundreds of millions for candidates eager to leverage one another’s personal connections and donor lists. Boosted by the joint committees run by President Barack Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, joint campaign accounts raised more than $1 billion in the 2012 elections, CRP data shows, twice what they yielded in the previous presidential contest.

In this election, Republican joint committees are outraising Democratic joint accounts by almost four-to-one.

According to data provided by the Sunlight Foundation, GOP joint campaign funds collected $23.3 million in 2013, compared with $6.3 million pulled in by Democratic joint accounts. But Democrats outpace Republicans in fundraising overall, which may explain the GOP’s reliance on joint fundraising as a means to catch up.

Immediately following the McCutcheon ruling, the three major GOP party committees set up a joint campaign fund for the first time ever in an off-year election. The Republican Victory Funds will split its proceeds between the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, and will be free to raise checks as large as $129,600 per donor for the election cycle. Under the old rules, the maximum check to such a committee would have been $74,600.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., are among the top joint fundraisers on Capitol Hill. The Boehner for Speaker Committee has raised $20.4 million to distribute to the Speaker’s campaign account and the NRCC, more than double what any other joint committee has pulled in.

Cantor has a hand in four joint campaign funds that have cleared more than $4.6 million between them, money has been doled out through various accounts to Cantor’s campaign war chest; to his leadership PAC, known as ERIC PAC; to the NRCC and to Virginia Republicans. Another top joint fundraiser is Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has an eye on the 2016 presidential contest and has raised more than $8 million into his joint committee, the Rubio Victory Committee.

The leading joint campaign fund run by Democrats is the House Senate Victory Fund, which has collected $2.6 million to be split between the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Obama has starred at private fundraising dinners for the committee alongside Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California. Top donors to that committee include Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr., CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, who gave $64,800. Milan Panic, CEO of MP Biomedicals and Michael Gordon King, CEO of King World Productions, each gave $32,400, FEC records show.

Hagan may run more joint fundraising committees than anyone else on Capitol Hill. Her 17 joint campaign accounts include four Victory Funds set up with fellow Senate Democrats Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Mark Udall of Colorado and John Walsh of Montana.

She’s also involved in Women of the Senate, a joint committee with Shaheen and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La. Her other joint accounts include several that divvy up receipts between Hagan, the DSCC and Democrats in North Carolina. Hagan campaign officials said that the Senator’s joint fundraising predates the McCutcheon ruling.

“As we work to fight back against the record amount of outside spending against Kay, strong fundraising will be key to getting her message out to voters across North Carolina,” said Hagan campaign spokeswoman Sadie Weiner. “The joint fundraising committees are a simple way to split the money raised from fundraisers with other members of Congress.”

McConnell is also getting a boost from joint campaign accounts in his hard-fought contest against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell’s raising money jointly with John Cornyn, R-Texas, and recently teamed up with 18 other Senate candidates on a joint campaign account dubbed the 2014 Senators Classic Committee. The McConnell Victory Kentucky committee has also divided $2 million between the Senate GOP leader and the Kentucky Republican Party.

The recently-registered Kentucky Republican Leadership Fund, which will split its take between the Republican National Committee and the Republican party of Kentucky, can also be expected focus largely on helping McConnell.

But Lundergan Grimes will be raising money jointly with her colleagues, too. The newly registered Kentucky Louisiana Victory Fund will divide its kitty between Lundergan Grimes and Landrieu. It’s one of 15 joint fundraising accounts to register with the FEC since the beginning of May.

At that rate, the number of joint fundraising accounts can be expected to proliferate quickly as these midterms unfold.

Corrected, 9:50 a.m. Thursday: A previous version of this story misidentified the state which Senator Landrieu represents.

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