The three Democratic first-termers all have banked more than $2 million apiece while Republicans seek to use their votes for impeachment against them, according to new Federal Election Commission reports covering the period through Dec. 31, 2019.
A fourth Jersey rookie, Rep. Jeff Van Drew, switched to the Republican Party after opposing Trump’s impeachment. He had more than $1 million to spend at the beginning of 2020.
Here’s a look at the most recent reports.
Impeachment looms over 2020
Trump was only the third president ever to be impeached.
“We talk about impeachment, we’re basically talking about abuse of power,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist. “It’s the same thing we saw in Atlantic City, abuse of power at a different level.”
“I continue to hear from people who were stiffed when he built those casinos,” he said.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the Democrats saw impeachment as a way to win in 2020.
“They see the success of the president’s policies and they see him on an unstoppable march to re-election,” Murtaugh said. “And it scares them. They see the progress and they see the success and they see his reelection on the horizon and they don’t know what to do.”
U.S. voters were evenly divided over whether Trump should be removed from office, with 47 percent saying yes and 48 percent saying no in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
Democrats ask Van Drew for their money back
After Van Drew switched sides, Pallone quickly asked for his contributions back. So did Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.
In all, Van Drew refunded $45,750 to Democratic state and federal lawmakers who had contributed to his re-election campaign when he was a member of their party.
Not that he will miss the money. Van Drew entered 2020 having raised $1.7 million and banking $1.1 million.
That gave him a huge head start over the Democrats now hoping to unseat him. Montclair State University professor Brigid Callahan Harrison raised $45,594 and didn’t spend a dime of it. None of the other Democrats reported raising any money.
Van Drew’s last remaining Republican primary opponent, Bob Patterson, raised $160,750 and had $95,235 cash on hand. He used some of his funds to pay down a personal loan from his unsuccessful 2016 congressional campaign.
No PACs, no problem
The two New Jersey Democrats who defeated Republican incumbents, Reps. Andy Kim, R-3rd Dist., and Tom Malinowski, D-7th Dist., pledged not to accept contributions from corporate political action committees.
As challengers, they weren’t going to see much corporate PAC money anyway. But as incumbents, they gave up a significant source of campaign cash.
Not that they had to worry. Kim entered 2020 with $2.2 million in the bank and Malinowski had $2 million.
Kim drew union official Kate Gibbs as an opponent. The International Union of Operating Engineers gave her $10,000 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $5,000. She had $138,403 in the bank.
Both unions traditionally support Democrats: only 16 percent of engineers PAC contributions and 4 percent of electrical workers PAC donations went to Republicans last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Then businessman David Richter shifted from challenging Van Drew to taking on Gibbs after lending his campaign $500,000. He had $515,226 to spend.
In the 7th District, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, raised $1.2 million and had $792,501 cash on hand. He has picked up PAC money from the anesthesiologists, dentists and home builders.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11th Dist., who is accepting corporate PAC donations, had $2.2 million in the bank entering 2020. GOP challenger lawyer Rosemary Becchi switched to the 11th District from the 7th District. She lent her campaign $150,000 and spent $39,583 of her own money. Becchi had $267,946 to spend.
Outside groups already have gotten into the act
Both sides already are benefitting from millions of dollars in outside spending. The DCCC spent more than $1 million on ads, including in New York City and Philadelphia stations, blasting Republicans for opposing House-passed legislation to reduce prescription drug prices.
“They’ve gotten the stories to tell: We’re getting the job done,” Bustos said. “It’s like success story after success story after success story.”
The American Action Network, a nonprofit with ties to House Republican leaders, is spending millions of dollars targeting endangered Democrats over impeachment, including a recent $100,000 ad buy against Kim.
“Rather than getting to work on the issues that make a real difference in the lives of New Jersey families, Andy Kim let this partisan obsession with impeachment totally take over Washington,” spokesman Calvin Moore said.
New Jersey’s champion fundraiser
After bringing in close to $1 million in the last three months, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., built his campaign bank account balance to $7.1 million.
The Democrat who most often voted with Trump in 2018, Gottheimer drew a primary from Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich. She raised $170,025, including $5,256 from her own pocket and $63,662 in donations of $200 or less. She had $105,977 in the bank.
The Republican candidates all are relying on their own money. Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali lent his campaign $600,000, former investment banker Frank Pallotta borrowed $290,000 from himself, and John McCann, who lost to Gottheimer in 2018, took out a $55,000 personal loan.
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