Sen. Kamala Harris has given herself an important edge over a potentially crowded 2020 Democratic presidential candidate field: She’s raised more for Democrats running this year than any other senator.
Harris raised nearly $2.4 million in her leadership PAC – more than any other senator this cycle, according to a report published Wednesday by Issue One, a nonpartisan think tank.
Members of Congress use such PACs to donate to other campaigns — and boost their own ambitions. Leadership PACs are in addition to lawmakers’ own committees that generally fund their own campaigns.
Harris is regarded as a potential 2020 presidential candidate. She’s said she won’t make a decision until after the 2018 midterm election, but she’s been campaigning in recent weeks in critical presidential election states such as Iowa, South Carolina and Ohio.
Those visits, plus her fundraising power, could be crucial if she vies for the White House.
“We’re going to have 15 to 20 Democrats running for president,” said Bob Mulholland, a Democratic political strategist in California who favors Harris for president. “So you need that big money early on, and you need to put up big (fundraising) numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire.”
Iowa has hosted the nation’s first presidential nominating caucus in recent times, while New Hampshire has had the first primary.
The PAC prowess gives Harris an edge over other potential 2020 Democratic candidates such as Sens. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. Booker has about $1 million in his leadership PAC, Sanders has $370,000 and Warren has about $590,000.
However, it just barely surpasses former Vice President Joe Biden’s PAC, which has raised just under $2.3 million this election cycle.
Not only did Harris’ leadership PAC fundraising lead all senators, her total was second highest among all Democrats and fifth highest overall among members of Congress.
Those with higher numbers are in House leadership or potential leadership positions, including Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has been weighing a bid for speaker if Republicans hold on to the House, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California. Ryan is stepping down in the next Congress, and McCarthy is aiming to succeed him.
Harris’ PAC has donated to Democrats challenging vulnerable Republicans in the House and Senate, as well as spending substantially on flights, other transportation and political consultants.
Recipients include Sharice Davids, who is challenging Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, Susie Lee, who is vying for a Nevada House seat, former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who’s seeking a Tennessee Senate seat, and several California Democrats running for vulnerable House seats such as Josh Harder, TJ Cox, Gil Cisneros and Jessica Morse.
That’s in addition to fundraising emails she’s sent to her donor base to help vulnerable Democrats such as Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana. One fundraising email Harris sent about Heitkamp in September reportedly landed $400,000 in Heitkamp’s campaign account.
“There’s a lot of very wealthy people in this state, and you can keep building on that,” Mulholland said.