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Follow the Money: Democratic incumbents strengthen campaign war chests in third quarter fundraising race

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Campaign FinanceElection 2022
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As the 2022 midterm elections draw closer, Nevada’s Democratic incumbents in the House and Senate continued to expand their fundraising leads in the third quarter of the year, often raising as much or more than their Republican rivals combined. 

Three key races in Nevada — including a seat in the Senate and two in the House — may prove decisive as Republicans seek to gain and Democrats fight to keep control of a bitterly divided House and Senate.

Below, we explore the latest campaign finance reports for the top congressional candidates  who filed with the Federal Election Commission ahead of a deadline Friday, broken down by race and ordered from greatest cumulative fundraising to least. 

Catherine Cortez Masto (D-incumbent)

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised more than $3.1 million this quarter ahead of what is expected to be a tough reelection fight for the first-term senator next fall. That sum boosted her campaign war chest to roughly $8.3 million, even after she spent $1.4 million, putting her far ahead of her Republican challengers.

Her fundraising total, however, was dwarfed by the sums raised by two of her fellow caucus members in lean Democratic seats. Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia raised about $9.5 million in the third quarter, while Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona raised nearly $8.2 million. A third Senate Democrat facing reelection, Sen. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, raised just shy of $3 million.

More than $2.7 million of Cortez Masto’s third quarter fundraising came from individuals, with another $334,000 coming from more than 100 PACs. The rest came from committee transfers, expenditure offsets and other receipts.

Among Cortez Masto’s PAC donations, she received 32 contributions for $5,000 each, including from NARAL Pro-Choice America, Anthem, Inc. Political Action Committee, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association PAC, the UA Union Plumbers & Pipefitters Vote! PAC, the National Association of Letter Carriers of U.S.A. Political Fund and the Southwest Airlines Co. Freedom Fund.

Of the roughly $1.4 million Cortez Masto spent in the third quarter, about $1 million went toward fundraising, including consulting, copywriting, data, postage and printing fees.  

Adam Laxalt (R)

Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the highest-profile candidate in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, raised $1.4 million in the third quarter after announcing his candidacy in August. He has a little less than $1.3 million in cash on hand and has only spent about $151,000 on the race so far.

Almost all of Laxalt’s third quarter fundraising, a little less than $1.4 million, came from individuals, with the remainder, about $61,000, coming from PACs. 

Laxalt received $10,000 each from the Republican Majority Fund, a leadership PAC affiliated with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), and Reclaim America PAC, a leadership PAC affiliated with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). 

He also received $5,000 contributions from the Making a Responsible Stand for Households in America PAC, Alamo PAC, Heartland Values PAC and the Bluegrass Committee — leadership PACs affiliated with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), respectively. Laxalt also received $5,000 from the Senate Conservatives Fund, a PAC founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) that supports conservative Republican candidates. 

Among his individual donations, Laxalt received $5,800 each from Steve Wynn, the longtime Las Vegas gaming tycoon who stepped down as chairman and CEO of his company in 2018 after facing allegations of sexual misconduct, and his wife Andrea Wynn. Laxalt also received a total of $46,400 from eight members of another Las Vegas gaming family, the Station Casinos-owning Feritittas. Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin also donated $5,000 to Laxalt’s campaign.

Laxalt has spent $27,000 on fundraising and digital advertising, $27,000 on political mailing list acquisition and list rental fees and $10,000 on general consulting services.

A poll released by The Nevada Independent earlier this month found that Cortez Masto has a narrow, 4-point lead over Laxalt, who is running with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, among likely voters. Laxalt lost a 2018 gubernatorial bid against Gov. Steve Sisolak by 4 percentage points, or about 40,000 votes.

Sam Brown (R) 

Veteran Sam Brown raised a little more than $1 million in the third quarter, a significant figure for the first-time candidate who faces a difficult battle in the Republican primary against Laxalt. Brown ended the quarter with about $660,000 in the bank after spending about $370,000.

All of Brown’s fundraising came from individuals except for a $17,000 personal loan to his campaign and $6,000 in offsets to operating expenditures. He has received no money from PACs.

Among those backing Brown’s bid are businessman Don Ahern, CEO of Ahern Rentals and the Nevada Republican Party’s finance chairman, and his wife, Carolyn, who have contributed $5,800 each to Brown’s campaign. Ahern is a prominent Trump supporter in the state who hosted and then was fined for hosting a rally for the president against state COVID-19 health and safety rules in September 2020.

Of the $370,000 Brown has spent so far on his campaign, about $132,000 has gone to direct mail, $47,000 has gone to digital consulting and marketing, $44,000 has gone to strategy consulting and $38,000 has gone to communications consulting.

Several other candidates have launched Senate campaigns but have raised comparatively little. Among them, only one, Republican Sharelle Mendenhall — $14,579 raised, $9,088 cash on hand — filed a quarterly report with the FEC. Three others, Republican William Hockstedler and non-party affiliated Gretchen Rae Lowe and J.J. Destin, did not. 

Susie Lee (D-incumbent)

Looking to secure her third term in Congress in 2022, Democratic Rep. Susie Lee banked more than $660,000 last quarter, boosting her cash on hand reserves past $1.4 million. The sum was by far the largest of any Nevada House candidate — Lee’s four Republican challengers combined raised just  $565,000 — and it functionally refills a campaign war chest depleted during Lee’s tough reelection fight in 2020. 

Most of Lee’s fundraising, about $507,000, came from individuals, with another $120,000 in PAC contributions. The remaining $30,000 came from a transfer from Defending the New Democrat Majority, a joint fundraising committee PAC that includes Lee and several other members of Congress.That transfer marks a three-fold increase to Lee’s campaign from the committee, which gave her — alongside a handful of other House Democrats — just $8,789 during the 2020 election. 

Among Lee’s major donors, maximum $5,000 contributions rolled in from three labor PACs — among them UNITE HERE, the parent to the politically powerful Culinary Union in Las Vegas, the operating engineers union IOUE and the painters union IUPAT — as well as American Crystal Sugar. 

Among several dozen maximum contributions from individuals, Lee received $14,500 from three employees at the New York-based Blackstone Group — which owns the real estate of the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay — includings $5,800 from Blackstone President and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Gray. 

Lee spent just over $173,000 through the quarter, of which comparatively little — just $7,000 — went to a pair of advertising campaigns. Instead, among the largest single chunks of spending, more than $68,000, went to four separate consulting firms.  

April Becker (R)

Atop the widening field of Republican hopefuls in District 3 is April Becker, a state Senate candidate in 2020 who lost by just 631 votes in a race she later said was tainted by widespread voter fraud. A lawsuit filed by Becker asking for a new election was later dismissed, and an investigation by the secretary of state’s office found no “evidentiary support” for claims of widespread fraud. 

Though she trailed Lee, Becker raised almost $247,000, which is far and away the most of any Republican last quarter, and nearly all, $234,000, came from individual donors. Another $2,250 was contributed by PACs, and the remaining $10,200 by the candidate herself, largely through in-kind travel expenses. 

Becker’s cash on hand increased only marginally, however, to nearly $286,000, as she spent nearly as much as she raised.

Of the more than $219,000 Becker spent during the quarter — which was more than any other House candidate in Nevada — roughly $25,000 went to a handful of digital advertising campaigns, including one campaign with a price tag of $14,500. Becker’s cash outflow otherwise went to a half-dozen consulting firms — covering a range of expenses from email list rentals to fees — to the tune of more than $187,000. 

Mark Robertson (R)

Once the only other candidate to raise six figures in the Republican primary race besides Becker, veteran Mark Robertson saw his fundraising slow in the third quarter as he brought in just over $82,000. That’s roughly 20 percent less than the $104,000 he raised through the second quarter. 

Those contributions came almost entirely from individual donations — buoyed by $1,200 in candidate loans — including maximum donations from cleaning supply company Brady Industries President and CEO Travis Brady and his wife, Laura, totaling $11,600, and former Southwest Gas CEO Jeffrey Shaw and his wife, Cynthia, also totaling $11,600. Together, those four contributions alone accounted for more than 28 percent of Robertson’s quarterly haul. 

Robertson spent comparatively little, doling out just $43,000. 

Noah Malgeri (R)

Lawyer and veteran Noah Malgeri appeared to close the gap with his rivals in the third quarter, raising more than $114,000 and boosting his cash on hand to more than $76,000.

However, almost all of that money —$109,204 — came from the candidate himself, including $40,000 in a single candidate contribution and another $69,204 in in-kind campaign work, listed in his filing as “campaign consulting, travel, office supplies, lodging, postage, food and beverage.”

Malgeri otherwise received money from six individual contributors, totaling more than $5,300.

His filing lists the $69,000 in in-kind campaign consulting as a single expense — one that accounts for nearly all of the $70,320 in spending he reported for the quarter, the remainder emerging from a handful of credit card fee charges. 

John Kovacs (R)

The latest entry to the District 3 field, construction CEO John Kovacs kept pace with his rivals largely through his own personal contributions, loaning $112,000 of the $121,000 he raised.

Of the roughly $9,000 Kovacs received from individuals, all came through the Republican online fundraising platform WinRed. 

Kovacs spent heavily, doling out nearly $113,000 through the quarter, more than any other Republican aside from Becker. Of that money, nearly a third, $41,400, went to a half-dozen advertising buys, including five such buys in September alone. 

Another Republican candidate, Clark Bossert, did not file a quarterly report with the FEC. 

Steven Horsford (D-incumbent)

Second only to Susie Lee on the list of Nevada’s House fundraisers was District 4 incumbent Steven Horsford, who raised more than $450,000 to lift his cash on hand to more than $1.4 million by the end of the third quarter. 

Roughly half of that money came from individual donors, $223,200, with another $188,000 in PAC dollars and the remaining $35,000 coming from committee transfers. 

Among several dozen donors giving Horsford the individual maximum of $5,800 were entrepreneur and frequent Democratic donor Stephen Cloobeck, and the three Blackstone donors who gave money to Lee, including Blackstone President Jonathan Gray.

Horsford also received the $5,000 maximum from four PACs, including the Democratic Party-aligned Progressive Turnout Project PAC, a subsidiary of the gaming company IGT and a union for machinists and aerospace workers. 

Horsford spent big on online advertising in the third quarter, paying Colorado-based firm 4Degrees more than $26,000 from July through September for digital advertising, including a single payment of $20,000. 

Sam Peters (R)

A veteran and insurance salesman who came in second in a crowded Republican primary in District 4 last cycle, Sam Peters has surged to an early lead in the primary money race with two six-figure quarters in a row. Peters raised more than $113,000 through the third quarter, bumping his cash on hand to more than $172,000. 

Though a far cry from Horsford’s campaign coffers, the sum — raised entirely through individual donors — leaves him with more than four times as much cash as his next nearest Republican opponent. 

A handful of high-profile business donors — including Michael Muldoon, CEO of BQ Resorts, and Joey Jacobs, CEO of the Tennessee-based Acadia Healthcare, who also gave Peters an additional $1,000 for the general election — were among the individuals who gave Peters the maximum $2,900 contribution for the primary election.

Peters spent more than $95,000, an increase from the $76,000 he spent in the second quarter. None of that money went directly to advertising, however, with much going to a handful of consulting firms, including more than $25,000 to the Las Vegas-based McShane Firm. 

Carolina Serrano

Former Trump campaign staffer Carolina Serrano fell behind in the third quarter fundraising race, raising nearly $31,000 and spending more than $34,000 — a deficit that leaves her campaign with just over $39,000 cash on hand. 

All of Serrano’s contributions came from 25 individual donors, with all but two contributions exceeding $250. The largest came from Las Vegas poker player Rick Salomon, who donated the maximum $5,800.

Salomon, famous for his distribution of a sex tape he filmed of himself and then-girlfriend Paris Hilton in 2003, also recently put $10,000 toward an effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

Of the $34,000 Serrano spent, most went to a handful of communications, fundraising or other campaign consultants, in addition to a $6,500 payment to a Las Vegas-based studio for “production costs.” Serrano’s campaign did not otherwise pay directly for advertising last quarter. 

Another non-affiliated candidate, John Johnson, did not file a report with the FEC. 

Dina Titus (D-incumbent) 

Ahead of an expected primary battle in the deep-blue District 1, longtime incumbent Dina Titus continued to boost her campaign cash with nearly $196,000 last quarter, enough to bring her cash on hand reserves to more than $604,000. 

Of that money, roughly two-thirds came from individuals, with the remaining third, exactly $70,000, raised through PACs. 

Among Titus’ biggest boosters in the third quarter were more than a dozen people who gave the $2,900 individual maximum for the primary election, including Las Vegas lawyer Ed Bernstein and Atlantis Hotel CEO John Farahi. 

Four committees also gave the PAC maximum of $5,000, including the painters union, the parent company of Cox Communications, a leadership PAC linked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, PAC to the Future — Pelosi’s campaign also separately gave Titus an additional $2,000 — and Titus’ own leadership PAC, Democrats Time In Nevada. 

Of the more than $54,000 Titus spent last quarter, none went to advertising. Instead, like the rest of the congressional field, it largely fell to a mix of consultants, fees and other miscellaneous expenses. 

Amy Vilela (D)

Though only slightly more than half of Titus’ quarterly haul, the more than $102,000 raised by progressive challenger Amy Vilela is substantially more than the roughly $81,000 she raised in the second quarter of the year. 

Still, Vilela spent $113,500, which is slightly more than she brought in during the third quarter, and is left with roughly $47,000 — a comparative fraction of the cash available to Titus.

Fundraising largely through the Democratic Party-linked platform ActBlue, Vilela saw dozens of small-dollar donations under $100, and just one at the $2,900 maximum from Nicolette Beck, an investment advisor from California.  

Like other campaigns, most of Vilela’s spending went to consulting costs, with relatively little — less than $650 spread across 16 separate Facebook advertisements — committed directly to advertising. 

Mark Amodei (R-incumbent)

As he continues to mull taking a shot at the governor’s office, District 2 incumbent Rep. Mark Amodei raked in more than $120,000 in the third quarter, enough to lift his cash on hand to nearly $368,000. 

Most of the fundraising, about $88,000, came from individuals, while the remaining $31,000 came from PACs. 

Among those PACs, none gave the maximum, though major contributions did roll in from telecommunications giant AT&T ($3,000), defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin ($1,000) and Raytheon ($2,000), and Southwest Gas ($2,500). Amodei also received eight contributions at the $2,900 individual maximum, with nearly all coming from donors local to Carson City, Tahoe or other nearby areas of Northern Nevada. 

Among Amodei’s spending on consultants and campaign upkeep were a dozen contributions of $1,000 to other Republican campaigns, including a contribution to state attorney general candidate Sigal Chattah. 

Three other candidates, Republican Jesse Hurley and Democrats Aaron Sims and Timothy Hanifan, did not file reports with the FEC. 

Update, 10/19/21 at 8:46 a.m. — An earlier version of this article misstated the title of Travis Brady. He is the CEO and president of Brady Industries, not the vice president.

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