WASHINGTON — This election cycle saw by far the highest combined total spent on all federal races in history, so it’s only fitting to bring the year to a close with some record-breaking fundraising totals in the Georgia runoffs.
More than one-third of a billion dollars flowed into campaign coffers of the four candidates running for two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia over the last two months, according to federal election records, with the bulk of that money going to the Democrats in the races.
Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock blew past fundraising records, which were set just earlier this year, by raising more than $100 million each in the course of only two months for their races against GOP incumbent Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. And much like Democratic candidates around the country earlier this year, the record hauls came mostly from small-dollar donors, in this case likely animated by a consequential double runoff election that could tip the balance of the Senate toward Democrats.
Ossoff became the highest-funded candidate in the history of Senate elections on the strength of his $106.7 million fundraising haul between Oct. 15 and Dec. 16, which is itself a record for the most money raised in the shortest amount of time, according to paperwork filed Christmas Eve with the Federal Election Commission. That beat the record set only months ago by Jaime Harrison, who raised $57 million between July and September for his race against Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina.
Ossoff’s total fundraising receipts for the election now stand at $139.6 million, adding yet another line to Ossoff’s fundraising resume. He already held the title for the best-funded House candidate, excluding congressional leaders, for his unsuccessful 2017 special election race in Georgia’s 6th congressional district against GOP candidate Karen Handel.
Warnock, however, is not far behind. The pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta reported raising $103.3 million over the last two months, which places him just one notch below Ossoff on the all-time list of most money raised in one fundraising period. In all, he’s raised $125.3 million for the race, which again is second to Ossoff on the all-time list of most money raised for a single election.
While the Democrats in the race did better, the Republicans raised a lot of money, too. Perdue reported raising more than $68 million while Loeffler took in $63.9 million over the last two months. Loeffler has raised $92.2 million for the race while Perdue has raked in $89.7 million. They also reported raising most of their money over the last two month from individual donors.
Democrats also had a slight edge when it came to cash on hand. Ossoff reported having more than $17.4 million still unspent, while his opponent Perdue’s campaign declared it had $16 million left. Warnock still has $22.7 million in the bank, while had $21.2 million, as of the mid-December.
With the Democrats outraising their opponents, it’s no surprise that they’ve outspent them on advertising in the runoff, too. Ossoff spent about $68 million on ads as of mid-December while Perdue had spent $41 million, according to Ad Age. Meanwhile, Warnock had spent some $66 million compared with Loeffler’s roughly $47 million, according to the media news outlet.
But Republicans made up ground by raising and spending far more than Democrats in the form of outside group spending. Republican outside groups have spent well over $200 million attacking Ossoff and Warnock and defending Perdue and Loeffler, according to tallies kept by the Center for Responsive Politics. In fact, 20% of all media spending in the race has come from two Republican political action committees, American Crossroads and the Senate Leadership Fund, with each spending more than $45 million on advertising, according to Ad Age.
Groups that track political advertising spending have found that in all, some half a billion dollars has already been spent on ads in the races, with more than half of that coming from Republican groups or candidates.
The latest polls have shown basically a dead heat in both races, and with a week and a half left until the Jan. 5 runoff election, more money and more spending are sure to flow into Georgia, making what is already the most expensive elections ever even more pricey.
The full extent of the fundraising will not likely be known until after the election, however, because FEC reporting deadlines mean many groups, including the main party committees, won’t have to report the source of their fundraising until the end of January, well after the votes have been cast.