State of the Facts
The Georgia runoff election for its two Senate seats takes place on January 5, determining control of the Senate. Republicans currently hold a majority in that chamber and will continue to do so unless Democrats win both seats in Georgia. The races are reporting some of the highest congressional fundraising totals ever.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) reporting shows that, as of December 16, 2020, the Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock raised around $140 million and $125 million, respectively. Ossoff’s opponent, Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue, raised almost $86 million. Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed to the Senate last year after the resignation of Sen. Johnny Isakson, raised $92 million.
Ossoff and Warnock, along with Democrat Jaime Harrison — who lost the South Carolina Senate race against incumbent Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham — account for the three highest congressional campaign fundraising totals since FEC electronic filing began in 1996.
This election season, Senate fundraising in certain races has approached presidential levels. Ossoff is approximately $54 million behind the $194 million in inflation-adjusted funding that former President Bill Clinton raised in his 1996 reelection campaign. Ossoff and Harrison have both raised more than Elizabeth Warren did in her campaign for the 2020 Democratic primary.
Between 1996 to 2018, House seats were typically the least expensive to win, with an inflation-adjusted median of $1.3 million raised among winning candidates. The median amount raised for successful Senate campaigns was $7.6 million and $505 million for successful presidential campaigns.
Elections have become more expensive over time. In 1996, the median fundraising for winning Senate campaigns was $5 million when adjusted for inflation. In 2018, it was $11 million.
Challengers running against incumbents also tend to raise more money in order to win. Among winning Senate campaigns from 1996 to 2018, challengers raised an inflation-adjusted median of almost $13 million, while incumbents raised $6.9 million. Candidates who won open seats raised a median of $9.2 million.
Still, successful Georgia Senate campaigns historically do not raise much more than the national average. From 1996 to 2018, the median Georgia total raised was $9.3 million, or less than 7% of what Ossoff raised as of December. That is less than the top median of $19 million reported in New York, though higher than the lowest median — $2 million in Wyoming.
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Per the recommendation of the FEC, any amount of money listed as both being spent on and received from committees has been subtracted from fundraising totals to avoid double-counting money.
From the FEC: “A candidate’s financial summary may have double-counted financial activity. If a candidate has more than one committee authorized to raise and spend funds on their behalf, the activity in this file combines these committees. If the committees transfer funds back and forth to each other, this activity would be counted twice. Information about ‘transfers to authorized committees’ and ‘transfers from authorized committees’ is included in the file. If there are values in both fields, subtract these from the total receipts and total disbursements for a more accurate value of the candidate’s total activity.”
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