Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is the only Senate candidate President Donald Trump has helped with fundraising, but Hawley still only managed to raise less than half the amount collected by the Democrat he hopes to unseat, Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Hawley reported raising $1.5 million in the first quarter of 2018, according to paperwork his campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission. That total includes $1.29 million in contributions plus $206,220 transferred from the Trump fundraiser and other authorized committees in March.
McCaskill raised $3.9 million during the same time period.
Hawley has $2.12 million in the bank, compared to McCaskill’s $11.5 million.
McCaskill is considered one of the nation’s most vulnerable Democrats. Trump won Missouri in 2016 by 19 percentage points, and appeared at a March 14 fundraiser for Hawley. The race could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Challengers rarely raise as much money as incumbents, and Hawley’s campaign said his haul compared favorably to other GOP candidates taking on incumbent senators. Campaign officials noted Hawley was the top Republican U.S. Senate challenger in the country for dollars raised for the second consecutive quarter
But three GOP strategists, who requested anonymity to speak frankly, were wringing their hands Thursday over Hawley’s fundraising totals.
One called Hawley’s numbers “beyond embarrassing” for a candidate billed as a rising star.
“It’s a five-alarm fire,” the strategist said.
He went on to say that Hawley should have raised nearly that much money on a Trump fundraiser alone. He said Hawley needs to seriously think about his campaign team, and that he is jeopardy of throwing away the GOP’s best opportunity to win a Senate seat.
“The eyes of the country are obviously on Missouri,” said another Republican strategist, “and with (scandal-plagued Gov.) Eric Greitens dragging down the Missouri GOP, Josh must post better numbers, build a better campaign, and start working harder and better because Claire McCaskill is one of the best politicians in the country...and also the luckiest.”
Former Missouri Sen. Kit Bond — a Republican who helped recruit Hawley to run this year — pushed back in a statement relayed to The Kansas City Star by Hawley’s campaign.
“Josh’s numbers are strong,” Bond said in the statement. “His campaign continues to gain momentum in fundraising and grassroots support as he travels the state telling people about his message for changing Washington.”
Kelli Ford, Hawley’s spokeswoman, said Democrats are hyping McCaskill’s fundraising numbers because her poll numbers are horrible.
“Her job approval in Missouri is now in the 30’s,” Ford said in an email. “Chuck Schumer, Claire McCaskill and their Democrat friends have spent millions of dollars on ads and poll after poll shows Claire McCaskill getting more unpopular. That’s why they want every conversation to be about the mounds of cash she’s scooping up from Hollywood, Wall Street and Washington DC. Claire McCaskill is beginning to realize that money can’t buy her love and it’s driving her crazy.”
The Trump fundraiser pulled in a total of $181,184 for Hawley’s campaign from the Hawley WIN Fund, a joint fundraising committee that hosted the pricey St. Louis Trump fundraiser. The committee reported that 72 donors contributed a total of $1.07 million in the days leading up to the fundraiser or shortly after.
Among the biggest contributors to the Hawley WIN Fund were Missouri GOP megadonors David and Debra Humphreys who gave a total of $100,000 and Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, who also gave a total of $100,000. Hawley’s First Assistant Attorney General and Solicitor General D. John Sauer also donated $5,400 to the Hawley Win Fund on March 14.
A joint fundraising committee such as the Hawley WIN Fund can collect contributions up to the combined contribution limits of participating committees, which in this case included Hawley’s campaign, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee.
When an joint fundraising agreement is signed, participants agree about the percentage from each contribution that will go to each committee.
The Hawley WIN Fund gave $378,779 to the NRSC after the Trump event, and paid the Republican National Committee $50,000, an amount identified in filings as reimbursement for travel expenses.
Another committee, the 2018 Republican Challengers Fund, which helps candidates for federal office, gave Hawley’s campaign $1,334 on March 8.
On March 31 — the day before the federal campaign filing deadline — the Hawley Victory Committee, another joint fundraising committee, transferred $23,701 to Hawley’s campaign, pushing his fundraising total for the first quarter of 2018 past the $1.5 million mark.
One of the handful of donors to that committee is Ethelmae Humphreys, David Humphreys’ mother, who gave $39,300 last quarter.
Hawley’s campaign pointed out that Missouri Democrat Jason Kander raised $1.31 million in his battle against Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt in the first quarter of 2016. Sen. Tom Cotton raised $1.35 million in the first quarter of 2014, and Cory Gardner, the Colorado senator who now leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, raised $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2014.
More than 70 percent of Hawley’s donors have given $200 or less. His campaign spent $573,043 in the first quarter of this year.
“Missourians have been left behind for 36 long years while Senator Claire McCaskill has campaigned for one office after another, and it ends this November,” Hawley said in a statement.
Although Hawley trails McCaskill in fundraising, he easily outpaced his primary opponents in contributions and cash on hand this quarter.
Austin Petersen, a former Libertarian candidate who is running for Senate as a Republican, raised $125,887 in the first three months of this year, and has about $70,000 in the bank.
Another GOP contender, Tony Monetti, raised $99,403 in the first quarter and has about $44,000 cash on hand. The quarterly fundraising report for Republican Courtland Sykes is not yet available from the FEC. His most recent filing showed his campaign had $1,880 in cash.