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US Congressional Races Break Fundraising Records

FILE - Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke takes part in a debate in a U.S. Senate race in Texas in Dallas, Sept. 21, 2018. O'Rourke's fundraising total in this election cycle includes a record-setting $38 million in the third quarter of this year.

Fundraising records are falling in this year's U.S. congressional campaign season, driven in part by unprecedented hauls by at least five candidates from both major parties, according to a Reuters analysis of campaign finance disclosures.

Candidates for the House of Representatives have collectively raised $1.2 billion from January 2017 through the end of September, more than the inflation-adjusted $1 billion record set at this point in the 2010 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Senate candidates — who have six years to raise funds because of their longer terms — have raised more than $950 million, surpassing the $844 million raised during the same period ahead of the 2010 election.

Intense battle

The records are a sign of the intense fight by the Democratic and Republican parties ahead of the Nov. 6 elections. Democrats are aiming to pick up 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate in an effort to take control of Congress and block Republican President Donald Trump's agenda.

Republicans are eager to retain control of both chambers, which has allowed them to pass an extensive tax cut package and confirm two conservatives to the Supreme Court.

Democrats collectively raised more than Republicans. Senate Democrats raised at least $551 million, while Republicans raised at least $368 million. House Democratic candidates raised at least $680 million while Republicans raised at least $540 million.

The apparent Democratic edge may have been exaggerated by large numbers of candidates contesting primaries, said Michael Malbin, director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute. "I'm not seeing an overwhelming advantage for the Democrats," Malbin said.

Individual marks

A handful of candidates broke individual records.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas, who is challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, was the only Senate candidate who broke an individual fundraising record. He brought in nearly $63 million, besting former Sen. Hillary Clinton's record inflation-adjusted haul of nearly $61 million in 2006.

O'Rourke's total included a record-setting $38 million in the third quarter.

FILE - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington.
FILE - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Four House candidates broke that chamber's previous record, which was set in 2008 when Colorado Republican Jared Polis raised about $8 million. Republicans Devin Nunes of California, Greg Gianforte of Montana, Karen Handel of Georgia and Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb all exceeded that mark.

Nunes raised $10.6 million, the highest total for a House Republican running for re-election who did not chip in personal wealth to his or her campaign.

Factoring in people who funded their own races, Democrat and liquor entrepreneur David Trone of Maryland raised the most of any House candidate, with his campaign taking in $16.5 million.