How much pressure are lawmakers under to raise campaign cash? Lots. The 2022 midterm elections are still more than a year away, but fundraising efforts for members of Congress are already in full swing.
Hours spent dialing for dollars are diverted away from lawmakers’ legislative and oversight responsibilities. The political parties reportedly suggest that members of Congress spend about 30 hours per week fundraising in the Republican and Democratic call centers across the street from the Capitol. Issue One ReFormers Caucus Co-chairs Amb. Tim Roemer (D-IN), Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN), and Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD) have noted: “Constantly raising funds for the political parties interferes with the work of serving your constituents and your country.” With more than a year until their elections, members of Congress have already raised astronomical sums.
All House and Senate candidates filed new campaign finance reports last week detailing their fundraising and expenditures between July 1 and September 30, 2021.
Here are some key numbers to know, based on an Issue One review of these new filings.
The median amount of money raised during the third quarter of 2021 by a sitting senator running for reelection in 2022 was $1.3 million — the equivalent of about $13,600 per day. That’s more than six times as much money as their colleagues who are not facing reelection this election cycle, who typically raised $194,000 between July and September — about $2,100 per day.
Combined, all incumbent senators raised $101 million from individuals, political action committees, and other sources between July and September. That’s nearly twice as much as all incumbent senators raised during the same time period two years ago. In total, during the first nine months of 2021, incumbent senators have raised more than $286 million dollars through their campaigns.
The median amount of money raised between July and September by a member of the House of Representatives running for reelection in 2022 was $209,000 — or about $2,300 per day. Meanwhile, the median amount raised by a freshman House member was $278,000 — or about $3,000 per day. The typical House incumbent running for reelection in a race they won by less than 5 percentage points in 2020 raised roughly $601,000 during the third quarter — about $6,500 per day, or nearly three times as much money as the typical House member.
Combined, all House members raised $148 million from individuals, political action committees, and other sources between July and September. In total, during the first nine months of 2021, House members have raised a total of about $432 million. That’s roughly 25% more than all House members raised during the first nine months of 2019.
92% of members of Congress — including 91% of House members and all but three senators — have leadership PACs, political action committees that operate in addition to lawmakers’ official campaign committees. These PACs are often criticized by liberals and conservatives alike as slush funds. Created in the late 1970s as a way for members of Congress to raise extra money to give away to fellow politicians, leadership PACs open the door to corruption in two ways: Their funding often comes from special interest groups with business before Congress, and some politicians use them to fund lavish lifestyles, often under the guise of fundraising.