Campaign Cash Snapshot: N.H.'s 2nd Congressional District

May 2, 2018

Given the deep field of candidates and its reputation as "the swingiest congressional district in the nation," New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District has attracted most of the spotlight this year, when it comes to campaign fundraising or otherwise. But there’s also plenty of money flowing into the 2nd Congressional District race — most of it going through the campaign bank account of incumbent Congresswoman Annie Kuster.

WMUR once dubbed Kuster, a Hopkinton Democrat, a “fundraising machine.” And since she first ran for office in 2010, Kuster has lived up to that label: She consistently outpaces the average fundraising total for a Congressional candidate of any party by a million dollars or more, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

During the most recent fundraising period, which covered the first three months of 2018, Kuster raised roughly $440,000 toward her re-election bid. To put that into perspective: Kuster’s campaign haul for just this quarter is larger than what all three of her Republican opponents have raised in this election cycle.

(For more details on all of the candidates’ campaign totals so far, scroll down for an interactive graphic on fundraising across the race for the 2nd Congressional District.)

With six months left until the general election, Kuster’s raised more than $2.1 million overall. More than a third of that — or about $776,260 — comes from PACs and other political committees.

The Nadler Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee set up by New York Congressman Jerry Nadler to support "our most vulnerable Democrats in Congress," is Kuster's largest single source of campaign funds so far this cycle — sending $25,000 her way so far. The group says it's targeting money toward Democrats "who were elected by slim margins in districts that supported Trump, and who are already being targeted by right-wing Republican opponents for 2018." (Though at least the first part of that criteria doesn't necessarily apply to Kuster: Voters in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District favored Hillary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 presidential election.)

A group called 2018 Frontline Women Take Back The House, which according to the Federal Election Commission was established to support Kuster and a handful of other female Democratic Congressional candidates, is the second-largest contributor. They've given Kuster’s campaign $12,000 so far.

More than 15 other PACs have given $10,000 apiece to Kuster so far this cycle, including:

When it comes to contributions from individual donors, Kuster’s most recent fundraising reports show a majority of money coming from outside New Hampshire. She raised about $149,624 in itemized receipts from out-of-staters this quarter, compared to about $98,982 in itemized receipts from Granite Staters. Filings from the previous quarter also show about $116,241 in itemized individual donations from out-of-staters and $93,143 from New Hampshire residents.

But Kuster isn’t just raising money through her central campaign committee. She also has a joint fundraising committee with the New Hampshire Democratic Party (Annie Kuster Victory Fund) and a leadership PAC (America Needs New Innovation and Energy PAC, or Annie PAC).

Joint fundraising committees are common in high-profile races across the country, as they allow candidates, political parties and other groups to team up on fundraising and attract money from a larger donor pool. (For more on how these groups work, check out this NHPR report on their role in the 2016 U.S. Senate matchup between former Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Sen. Maggie Hassan.)

Leadership PACs, as explained by the Center for Responsive Politics, “are designed for two things: to make money and to make friends, both of which are crucial to ambitious politicians looking to advance their careers.”

So far this cycle, Kuster’s leadership PAC has raised about $32,500 — including about $10,000 from  the New Democrat Coalition PAC, which counts a laundry list of corporate PACs among its top donors. In turn, Annie PAC has dished out more than $27,000 to other political “friends,” including: $15,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, $1,000 to Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig’s campaign and $250 to the New Hampshire Young Democrats.

So far, three Republicans are running to challenge Kuster. What does their fundraising look like?

Republican Stewart Levenson, who jumped into the race last fall after gaining attention as a whistleblower over claims of mismanagement at the Manchester VA, has the second-largest campaign account in the field. As of the latest filing, he reported about $327,593 in contributions and about $242,492 in cash on hand.

So far, Levenson is his own largest campaign donor: Records show he’s given his committee about $205,389 and has received an additional $122,204 from other individual contributors.

State Rep. Steve Negron, a Republican from Nashua, is reporting about $57,767 in contributions and $55,332 cash on hand. As with Levenson, Negron’s campaign is also largely self-funded: He contributed about $28,500 and loaned another $127,875. He’s received about $29,067 in individual donations.  

After a later start than her other Republican opponents, former state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker has wasted no time playing catchup. She raised $50,363 during her first few months in the race, none of it from a campaign loan or candidate contribution.  Most of her money came from individual donors, but she also got $9,000 from PACs, including: $5,000 from a group backed by Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally and $1,000 apiece from groups backed by other congresswomen in Arizona, Alabama, Indiana and North Carolina.

For more details on the finances of all of the 2nd District campaigns, check out the interactive graphics below. You can also dig into each individual candidate's filings by browsing the following links:

Democrat: Congresswoman Annie Kuster (Leadership PAC / Joint Fundraising Committee)

Republicans: Former Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker, Stewart Levenson, Rep. Steve Negron