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Lindsey Graham during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol
Lindsey Graham during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in 2021. Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Senate Republicans prep for a wave of Democratic money

The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will lead new fundraising efforts.


Senate Republicans are trying to head off a potential wave of Democratic money in top races next year by launching new mechanisms to bolster the eventual GOP nominees.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced Thursday that it is launching so-called nominee funds in West Virginia, Montana and Ohio — three of Republicans’ top pickup opportunities in 2024 — which will involve raising money that will be transferred to the GOP nominees after they win their primaries.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will lead the effort, which comes as Democrats have raised eye-popping sums in recent election cycles. 

“We will not be able to take back the Senate if our candidates get swamped by the Democrats’ money machine again,” Graham said in a statement. 

These funds will be subject to federal contribution limits, which cap individual donations at $3,300 for the general election. In other words, a donor would not be able to make the maximum donation to the both the nominee fund and the candidate for the general election. 

"I think the appeal of this type of fundraising is really that the earlier you start, the more money you tend to raise," said Saurav Ghosh, the Director for Federal Campaign Finance Reform at the Campaign Legal Center.

"It’s a tool that allows them to take in money long before they’ve figured out who the money is for," Ghosh later added. "It’s a smart tool, the [Federal Election Commission] has signed off on it, and I think it’s something we’re going to see more and more of because it does make the fundraising more flexible for the parties.”

Raising more money earlier in the campaign cycle could help Republicans counter the explosion in Democratic fundraising that followed former President Donald Trump's election in 2016.

In last year’s midterm elections, Democratic Senate candidates raised $200 million more than Republican candidates combined, pulling in $968 million to Republicans’ $762 million, according to the FEC.

The fundraising disparity was especially acute in Senate battlegrounds, where vulnerable Democratic candidates were able to swamp their GOP counterparts on the airwaves. 

The candidate fundraising disparity has concerned Republicans in part because candidates receive lower advertising rates and outside groups have to spend much more to make up the difference. The NRSC’s press release announcing the initiative pointed to New York Times reporting that found a GOP super PAC paid seven times more than Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto's campaign to launch a 30-second television ad.

Graham himself faced a well-funded Democrat in his 2020 re-election race, when Democrat Jaime Harrison broke fundraising records. That year Harrison raised $133 million, while Graham pulled in $112 million. Graham went on to win the race by 10 percentage points.