Who’s winning the U.S. Senate money race?

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff addresses members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees in Burbank on Feb. 11, 2023. Photo by Damian Dovarganes, AP Photo

From CalMatters politics reporter Yue Stella Yu

There is no shortage of political wealth in California — and certainly not in the 2024 U.S. Senate race.

With less than five months until the March 5 primary, the five top Democrats and Republicans have collectively raised roughly $50 million — more than the $40 million the state spent this year to help flooding victims in Planada and Pajaro and the same amount it’s spending to produce its own insulin.

The fundraising is through Sept. 30; going forward, candidates can accept twice as much from each donor, since there is now a special election to fill the final two months of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s term happening simultaneously with the election determining who will serve a full six-year term.

As of Sept. 30, Rep. Adam Schiff, a Burbank Democrat, had raised $21.5 million since Jan. 1, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission. He also raised the most in this quarter and entered October with the most cash to spend: $32 million — more than all of his opponents combined.

While Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine reported the highest receipts — $22.1 million since Jan. 1 — there’s a catch: Her campaign had only raised $11 million from donors giving to her Senate bid, but she transferred another $11 million from her congressional campaign account. She had $12 million in the bank.

Rep. Barbara Lee, an Oakland Democrat, has struggled to keep up. She reported raising $3.2 million since January, and as of Oct. 1, she had $1.3 million on hand.

Among Republican candidates, attorney Eric Early has raised the most, totaling more than $540,000. That includes a $67,000 loan from himself.

Here are some key takeaways from the filings, due Sunday:

  • Porter had the largest share of small-dollar donors: Porter’s campaign received 56% of her haul this quarter from people who each gave $200 or less, as well as just $1,250 from political action committees. While only 47% of Schiff’s total was from small-dollar donors, it was more in actual cash, $2.8 million. He received almost $75,000 from political action committees associated with his congressional colleagues and other groups. Lee raised $342,000 from small donors, which accounts for 33% of all she raised during the three months, and took in $29,000 from PACs.
  • Corporate and labor money: Lee, Schiff, and Porter have all sworn off corporate PAC money and have distanced themselves from corporate giving this year. Schiff refunded $83,000 in contributions, including $3,300 from Stewart Resnick, president of The Wonderful Company that has drawn controversy for its water consumption in the state. Porter, who vowed to reject federal lobbyist money as well, refunded $24,000 in contributions, including $3,300 from Kaya Singleton, director of federal government relations at tax preparation firm H&R Block.Schiff, endorsed by seven statewide labor unions, received $17,500 in the third quarter from PACs affiliated with the International Association of Fire Fighters, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Lee and Porter did not receive union PAC contributions.
  • Spending on digital ads: Schiff spent $1.6 million this quarter just on digital ads touting his labor union endorsements and his role in the first impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump. Porter’s campaign shelled out $788,100 advertising on social media platforms her vow to battle corporate interests and her background as a teacher.

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