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Donations up for Democrats in 39 states

(AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Donors in 39 states have given a larger share of their total contributions to Democratic candidates, party committees and liberal outside groups this cycle than four years ago.

The largest shift in partisan donations have come in Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, where Senate Democrats are facing tough reelection bids.

Missouri

In 2014, Missouri donors contributed $17.6 million to federal candidates, party committees and outside spending groups. Of that, 19 percent went to Democrats or liberal causes.

The percentage has climbed to 56 percent this cycle, the first time in many years that Democrats have received a majority of the money donated by individuals in the state.

Only donations that exceed $200 are itemized in FEC filings with donor information, such as state of residence. In itemized fundraising, Missouri stands out.

The 37-percentage point increase is the largest partisan shift in the country, and Sen. Claire McCaskill can claim most of the credit.

McCaskill, a vulnerable Democrat running for a third term in a state President Trump carried two years ago, is the top recipient of individual contributions from Missouri donors. Since January 2017, she’s received $8.9 million from state donors  — or nearly a third of the $27.7 million they have contributed in that time.

The frontrunner in the Republican primary for McCaskill’s seat is Josh Hawley, the state’s attorney general. Hawley’s received about $1.6 million from Missouri donors.

Other top recipients include Republican Rep. Ann Wagner, the incumbent in Missouri’s Second District, who’s received $897,335 from in-state donors, and Cort Vanostran, Wagner’s potential Democratic challenger in November. Vanostran has collected $527,573 from Missouri donors ahead of the state’s Aug. 7 primary.

Ohio

Four years ago, only 23 percent of the $37.7 million contributed by Ohio donors benefited Democrats. In 2016, the percentage dipped to 21 percent.

In 2018, however, the percentage has swung dramatically to the left. Of the $53.2 million in itemized contributions from Ohio donors, 51 percent has gone toward Democrats — a swing of 28 percentage points from the 2014 midterms, the second-largest gain after Missouri.

The top recipient of in-state donations is Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who’s received $10.7 million from in-state donors since January 2017. Like McCaskill, Brown faces uncertain reelection chances in a state Trump carried.

Brown will face Republican challenger Jim Renacci, who won the primary in May. Renacci’s campaign is 86 percent self-financed. As a result, less than 6 percent — or $350,741 — of his campaign’s $6.2 million in overall fundraising has come from other in-state donors, based on the most current data.

Wisconsin

In 2016, Trump narrowly defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin. Two years later, the percentage of contributions benefiting Democrats from Wisconsin donors is 47 percent, up from 25 percent in the 2014 midterms.

Left-wing enthusiasm in the state is reflected not only in federal contributions but also in recent state elections, Courtney Beyer, spokeswoman for Wisconsin’s Democratic Party, said in an email.

Beyer pointed to last spring’s state elections in which Wisconsin voters flipped two state Senate seats from red to blue and elected a liberal Supreme Court justice by 12 points. The precarious seat of Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who’s up for reelection, is another variable, Beyer said.

Baldwin has outraised two Republican challengers ahead of the Aug. 14 primary but has faced a barrage of outside spending by conservative groups either attacking her or supporting her Republican challengers.

So far, outside groups have spent $16.1 million in the race, including $4.3 million opposing Baldwin’s reelection. The fight against conservative outside spending helped energize liberal grassroots fundraising, Beyer said.

“In early 2017, our state party, in partnership with Tammy Baldwin’s campaign, tapped into that grassroots energy and enthusiasm earlier than ever to build one of the largest and most cutting-edge field organizing programs in our state party’s history,” she said. “Our field program was critical to our two victories in special elections this year, and it will be critical to our victory in November.”

Since January 2017, Baldwin has raised at least $4.1 million from individual donors in Wisconsin, making her the top recipient of in-state donations.

Other states with major increases to Democrats include historically conservative states, such as Indiana (up 21 percentage points over 2014), Alabama (19 points) and Montana (17 points), as well as swing states such as Minnesota and Pennsylvania (up 18 percentage points each). The only states with double-digit percentage point decreases for Democrats relative to 2014 were Arkansas, Louisiana and Rhode Island.

Geoff West

Geoff West is the money-in-politics reporter for OpenSecrets. Previously, he covered politics and public policy for eight years in Central Texas. He holds a master’s degree with an emphasis on investigative and computer-assisted reporting from the Missouri School of Journalism and was a graduate assistant for IRE and the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

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