Some wealthy candidates this year are paying a substantial price to pursue their political ambitions. These so-called self-funders have used millions, and even tens of millions, of their own dollars to try to unseat incumbents and win open seats in races around the country.
Most prominently, California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, the billionaire former eBay CEO, made news recently when she reported breaking the $100 million mark in her own contributions to her campaign. And in Florida's gubernatorial race, Republican former hospital executive Rick Scott has loaned his own campaign $38.9 million ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary, in which he faces Florida Attorney General and former Rep. Bill McCollum.
Data from the Federal Election Commission shows that, while no congressional candidates have tapped their personal finances as much as Scott and Whitman, many are spending big this year from their own pockets. Republicans are especially prominent among self-funders, as they seek to unseat incumbents and take open seats as part of their party's larger pursuit of winning House and Senate majorities. Nine of the 10 senatorial candidates who have contributed the most personal money and 7 of the 10 top-contributing House candidates are Republicans.
Connecticut Republican Linda McMahon, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO who is running for retiring Sen. Chris Dodd's seat, has spent $27.1 million of her own money, making her the biggest self-financer among Senate candidates. Florida Democrat Jeff Greene, a billionaire real estate developer seeking his party's nomination to run for retiring Sen. George LeMieux's seat, is second on that list, having spent $14.4 million. Both well outpace the number-three contributor, California Republican Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO, who has spent $5.6 million of her own money in her race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Nevada Republicans Sue Lowden and John Chachas both make the top 10 with their contributions of $1.9 million and $1.3 million, respectively. However, both were defeated in the primary by Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle, who contributed nothing from her own pocket in winning the Republican nomination and the opportunity to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.
The 10 Senate candidates who have contributed the most of their own money (in loans and donations) toward this year's general election campaigns are:
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On the House side, one candidate—Ohio Republican Tom Ganley—has far out-contributed his fellow self-funders, with $6.5 million in total contributions to his own campaign. Ganley, an Ohio car dealer, is running against Democratic incumbent Rep. Betty Sutton in Ohio's 13th District, after having backed out of that state's tough Senate race in February. The candidate who has spent the next most personal money, Republican radiologist and broadcaster George Flinn in Tennessee's Eighth District, contributed less than half of Ganley's total, with $3.5 million of his own money spent in his failed campaign.
The top House self-funded candidates have not fared as well as their Senate candidate counterparts; while 8 of the top 10 self-funded Senate candidates remain in their races, only 4 of the top 10 self-funded candidates on the House side remain.
Among the top self-financing House candidates are two pairs of adversaries. The No. 3 spender, Republican Randy Altschuler, has spent $2 million of his own money in his campaign to unseat Democratic Rep. Timothy Bishop in New York's First District. But also hoping to defeat Bishop is Republican Christopher Cox, who has given his campaign over $1 million. The race between the two self-financers will be decided in New York's September 14 primaries. Two largely self-funded candidates who didn't quite make the top 10 also faced off in Virginia's Second District: Republican candidate Ben Loyola gave his campaign nearly $940,000, and Scott Rigell gave slightly less, with nearly $925,000. However, Rigell came out on top in the June 8 primary and will now face Democratic incumbent Rep. Glenn Nye on Election Day.
The 10 House candidates who have contributed the most of their own money (in loans and donations) toward this year's general election campaigns are:
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- See who is donating to your member of Congress.
- See the women of the Senate.
- Check out our editorial cartoons on the 2010 campaigns.