Billionaires and Big Checks Shape Battle for Congress

Billionaires cut giant checks to super PACs. Small donors gave online in mass quantities. Multimillionaires poured money into their own campaigns. And both political parties announced record-setting hauls in 2021.

The 2022 midterm elections were awash in political money even before the year began, according to new Federal Election Commission campaign disclosures made on Monday.

With control of both chambers up for grabs — the Senate is knotted 50-50 and Democrats are clinging to a narrow majority in the House — the two parties were almost equally matched when it came to fund-raising last year. The Democratic and Republican national committees, as well as the main House and Senate committees, pulled in nearly identical sums — about $400 million each.

On the Republican side, several primary contests in the coming months will pit the Trump wing of the party against more traditional Republicans.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican up for re-election in 2022 to have voted for former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment, faces a right-wing challenge from Kelly Tshibaka, a Trump-endorsed rival.

Among Ms. Murkowski’s donors in December was George W. Bush, who listed his occupation as “former president.” Overall, Ms. Murkowski raised nearly $1.4 million and reported entering 2022 with $4.2 million cash on hand. Ms. Tshibaka raised $602,000 and had $634,000 cash on hand.

Former President George W. Bush, right, and Senator Lisa Murkowski, left, at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, in 2005. Credit…Michael Dinneen/Associated Press

Mr. Bush made one other symbolic donation: the legal maximum of $5,800 to Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of the most outspoken anti-Trump Republicans in Congress.

Like Ms. Murkowski, Ms. Cheney out-raised her Trump-backed challenger, Harriet Hageman, collecting $2 millionto Ms. Hageman’s $443,000last quarter, though money is often not the determining factor in outcomes, especially in high-profile cases that garner significant media attention.

The battleground contests expected to determine which party is in the Senate majority are shaping up to be especially expensive. In Georgia, Senator Rafael Warnock, a Democrat, was the top 2022 Senate fund-raiser, collecting $9.8 million in the fourth quarter. Mr. Warnock had nearly $23 million at the end of the year.

How Donald J. Trump Still Looms

  • Grip on G.O.P.: Mr. Trump remains the most powerful figure in the Republican Party. However, there are signs his control is loosening.
  • Trump vs. DeSantis: Tensions between the ex-president and Florida governor show the challenge confronting the G.O.P. in 2022.
  • Midterms Effect: Mr. Trump has become a party kingmaker, but his involvement in state races worries many Republicans.
  • Just the Beginning: For many Trump supporters who marched on Jan. 6, the day was not a disgraced insurrection but the start of a movement.

His likely Republican opponent, the former football player Herschel Walker, was urged to run by Mr. Trump. Mr. Walker has emerged as one of the strongest new Republican fund-raisers, raising $5.4 million, with $5.4 million in the bank.

In Florida, Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, raised $5.2 million and has $10.5 million in the bank; his expected Democratic challenger, Representative Val Demings, out-raised him by collecting $7.2 million, though she has less cash on hand at $8.2 million.

While candidates face contribution limits of $2,900 each for the primary and general election, there is no limit on what the ultrarich can pour into campaigns through super PACs. The billionaire liberal philanthropist George Soros seeded his own political committee with $125 million, new disclosures show, a sign that he will yet again continue to be a major financier on the left.

Big money flowed, in particular, to super PACs focused on control of Congress.

In the House, the leading Republican super PAC and linked nonprofit announced raising twice as much money as the equivalent House Democratic groups, $110 million to $55 million last year.

The disclosed donors to the House Democratic super PAC in the second half of the year included the media executive Fred Eychaner ($4 million), the LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman ($1.45 million) and $1 million each from the philanthropist Connie Ballmer and the real estate developer George Marcus. Mr. Eychaner also gave $4 million to the Senate Democratic super PAC.

The top donors to the House Republican super PAC were Patrick G. Ryan, an insurance magnate who gave $10 million, and Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager who also gave $10 million.

Mr. Griffin gave another $5 million to the main Republican Senate super PAC, making him also its largest donor in the second half of the year.

In addition, Mr. Griffin gave $5 million to a Pennsylvania-focused super PAC, which has opposed Dr. Mehmet Oz, the surgeon and former television show host running in the Republican primary there. Among his opponents is David McCormick, who is the former chief executive of a prominent hedge fund and who entered the race after the filing deadline.

Dr. Oz contributed more than $5 million to his own race — one of multiple wealthy Republican candidates powering their Senate campaigns with their own money. Jeff Bartos, another Republican candidate in Pennsylvania, gave his campaign $1.3 million.

In Arizona, Jim Lamon, a former energy executive, has put more than $8 million of his own money into his primary Senate run.

In Ohio, the Senate race is crowded with wealthy Republican self-funders who have lent or donated money to their own campaigns: Mike Gibbons, an investment banker ($11.4 million); Jane Timken, a former party chair ($3.5 million); Bernie Moreno, a former car dealer ($3.75 million); and Matt Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians ($10.5 million).

Some of Mr. Dolan’s family members put an additional $3 million into a super PAC.

In Alabama, Mike Durant, who was in one of the Black Hawk helicopters that was shot down in Somalia in 1993, put more than $4 million into his run. Mr. Durant faces a former top aide to Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, Katie Britt, who raised $1.2 million last quarter and has $4.1 million cash on hand.

Mr. Trump has endorsed a third Alabama candidate, Representative Mo Brooks, whose fund-raising has flagged. Mr. Brooks raised only $386,000 in the fourth quarter, down sharply from his previous two quarters.

Big money also poured into the campaigns of some politicians who are not even on the ballot this year, reflecting the high stakes of the legislative battles that have raged on Capitol Hill over President Biden’s agenda.

Two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have held out in opposition to Mr. Biden’s signature domestic bill, raised bigger sums than some facing competitive contests, even though neither are up for election again until 2024.

Ms. Sinema raised nearly $1.6 million in the fourth quarter — more than four times what she raised in the first quarter of 2021. Nearly 98 percent of her money came from larger contributions. Some of her contributions were from traditional Republican donors, including the investor Nelson Peltz, the real estate developer Harlan Crow and Mike Fernandez, a health care industry investor.

Mr. Manchin also raised almost $1.6 million, of which more than $300,000 came from PACs.

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