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Out-of-state donors, abortion ruling fueled Cortez Masto fundraising

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Campaign FinanceElection 2022
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If all politics is local, no one told the tens of thousands of out-of-state donors flooding Nevada’s competitive Senate race with record-obliterating amounts of campaign cash. 

That is especially true for incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who is running for re-election in a race that could decide control of the U.S. Senate for the tail end of President Joe Biden’s term. 

Those high stakes have translated directly into cold hard cash and into a deluge of television advertisements. Cortez Masto recorded a record $7.5 million through the second quarter, which covers a period of time from the start of April to the end of June. Laxalt lagged far behind, but still raked in nearly $2.9 million of his own as his fundraising efforts accelerated through the end of the primary season. 

Driving those fundraising totals were out-of-state donors — an analysis of more than 35,000 itemized contributions to Cortez Masto’s campaign found sums totaling more than $4.8 million, and another 2,700 contributions to Laxalt totaling more than $2.1 million.

However, these figures also come with a caveat: They exclude a sizable chunk of small contributions, as campaigns are not legally required to itemize any contribution from a donor who has given cumulatively less than $200 through the course of the campaign. Those small contributions disproportionately affect the analysis of Cortez Masto’s campaign, which brought in over $3 million in unitemized dollars, or roughly two-fifths of all the money she raised last quarter. 

Laxalt, by contrast, raised $771,000 in unitemized contributions, or about a quarter of his fundraising last quarter. 

They also don’t account for the remainder of the candidates’ funding from other sources, such as transfers from joint fundraising committees or from dividend payments. 

Still, the numbers tell a story of fundraising operations drawing in historic amounts of campaign cash for a Senate race in Nevada, with Cortez Masto in particular raising more than $53,000 per day in itemized contributions. 

Within those daily totals, peaks and valleys emerge not only around concerted fundraising pushes (especially around the end of the month and the end of a fundraising period), but also around a shifting political landscape. 

That trend was abundantly clear in comparing fundraising totals after Politico in May published the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the decision from Supreme Court conservatives that unraveled constitutional protections for abortions for the first time in nearly 50 years. 

Almost two months later, on June 24, the Supreme Court released a final ruling on Dobbs that was nearly unchanged — and thus solidified the abortion issue as a potent wedge for congressional Democrats.

For Cortez Masto, who has staked much of her career on women’s issues and in the lead up to Dobbs made abortion access a central campaign focus, that political sea change came with a visible fundraising bump. 

On May 3, the day after the leak, she raised $133,000 from itemized donors, well over twice her average. On June 24, the day of the Dobbs decision, she raised another $101,000. 

Still, those daily totals remain adrift of the biggest fundraising day: the end of the quarter. On June 30, “big money” donors gave Cortez Masto more than $260,000 in a single day. 

Laxalt, meanwhile, has seen his fundraising punctuated more by out-of-state fundraisers in Washington, D.C, Virginia and Florida — the latter being home to everything from Laxalt’s longtime friend Gov. Ron DeSantis to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club to this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). 

Despite that, Nevada remained Laxalt’s biggest fundraising state at $397,000 in cumulative itemized donations. Florida came close behind at $317,000, followed distantly by California ($194,000), Virginia ($153,000) and Washington, D.C. ($151,000). 

Cortez Masto, by contrast, saw her biggest out-of-state totals in the deep-blue usual suspects: California ($1 million), Washington, D.C. ($648,000) and New York ($416,000), with Nevada sandwiched between at $473,000.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Indy 2022, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2022 election. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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