It’s good to be a pioneer. Or just incredibly rich.
New financial reports filed on Friday detail how Mehmet Oz and David McCormick, the leading Republican candidates in the U.S. Senate race from Pennsylvania, spent a combined $18 million of their own personal fortunes to fuel their campaigns and make it the country’s most expensive primary election.
The reports, showing campaign finances through March 31, offer the first in-depth look at Oz’s campaign finance and the first look of any kind at McCormick, as he joined the race in January and did not have to file any previous disclosures.
Their immense wealth and willingness to spend will make it even harder for any of their rivals to catch up with them as the race enters a costly long straight ahead of the May 17 primary.
Here are some key points revealed by the reports:
The Republican race was defined by the mind-boggling wealth of Oz and McCormick.
The two candidates and their allies have already spent $33.8 million on television through Sunday, with many more planned for the coming weeks, pushing most of their rivals into the background.
The Oz report shows the famed surgeon known as ‘Dr. Oz’ has donated more than $11 million to his campaign since joining the race in November. That’s the vast majority of the $13.4 million his campaign received in total. Of this amount, the campaign spent $10.9 million.
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Oz has raised $1.7 million from donors in the first three months of this year, the fourth most among all Pennsylvania Senate candidates. That was all before he won former President Donald Trump’s endorsement earlier this month, which would give him a potential boost in the final weeks.
McCormick, who until recently was CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, has invested nearly $7 million of his own money in his campaign.
He also raised $4.3 million in his first three months in the race – the most any candidate, Democrat or Republican, has raised in a single quarter. The loot is largely due to the most significant contributions from a range of friends and supporters in the world of banking and investing. (In addition to McCormick’s background in hedge funds, his wife is an executive at Goldman Sachs.)
But candidate spending is only part of the gush of GOP money.
McCormick was also boosted by an incredible level of independent super PAC spending backed by his wealthy friends and supporters. Two groups behind him had spent $13 million as of March 31.
Principal Honor Pennsylvania has raised $15.3 million since forming in late December, more than any candidate or other race-focused PAC from Pennsylvania — including Fetterman, who has been in the race for more than a year and has been a juggernaut fundraiser.
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Almost half of the group’s money – $7.5 million – comes from another hedge fund executive: Citadel’s Kenneth Griffin. And another $1.25 million came from Walter W. Buckley, the founder of Bethlehem-based Buckley Muething Capital Management. Other donors regularly wrote six- and seven-figure checks to fund the deluge of attack ads that reshaped the race, helping McCormick cut Oz’s initial lead and leave them in the lead.
A new group attacking Oz, the Pennsylvania Conservative Fund, raised $3.5 million and spent $3.2 million. Almost all of his money, $3 million, came from an entity called Defending America Together, for which there is little public information other than a Phoenix mailing address.
Super PACs can accept donations above the federal limits for candidate donations, but by law they cannot coordinate with these campaigns. They also pay higher rates for TV time, making their spending less efficient.
Oz has its own super PAC, but it has far less financial power. The group, American Leadership Action, has raised $3.1 million since its inception late last year and has spent most of it, leaving it with just $478,000 as of March 31.
The biggest donors are Oz’s father-in-law, fellow heart surgeon Gerald Lemole Sr., who gave $1 million, and former Morgan Stanley CEO John J. Mack, who gave $600,000. .
Oz, citing reports from The Inquirer, criticized McCormick’s allies for taking money from donors he calls “never Trumpers” and Democratic supporters. But in 2016, Mack gave more than $130,000 combined to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and the American Bridge Democratic Group as they worked to defeat Trump. Mack has also given to Trump critics such as U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) and donated $5,800 last year to his original senator, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D ., NY).
If Oz wins, his victory could cost Schumer his leadership of the Senate.
Oz and Mack have professional ties: Mack served on the board of New York Presbyterian Hospital, where Oz served as a cardiothoracic surgeon.
The GOP field has three ultra-wealthy candidates who returned to Pennsylvania relatively recently, and their donations reflect that.
Of the money Oz raised from donors, the largest share, about 27%, came from Florida, where he owns a home in Palm Beach. It lifted 19% in Pennsylvania, according to an Inquirer analysis.
Oz, who has lived in North Jersey for decades, was asked about his ties to Pennsylvania. He recently purchased a home in Montgomery County and, according to his campaign, has been living at his in-laws’ home in that county since late 2020.
» READ MORE: Does Mehmet Oz live in Pennsylvania?
McCormick — who grew up in Pennsylvania but lived for years in Connecticut before recently moving to Pittsburgh — raised about 24% of his donor money in Pennsylvania, the most of any state, and 23% in New York. Still, he had the third-smallest share of Pennsylvania donor money among candidates from both parties.
Almost all of the money for the two candidates’ super PACs comes from outside of Pennsylvania.
Republican Carla Sands has the highest percentage of money coming from out of state. Sands, the former ambassador to Denmark, grew up in Pennsylvania but lived for years in southern California. Nearly half of its donor money comes from California.
With so much attention on Oz and McCormick, other Republicans struggled to gain traction.
Conservative commentator Kathy Barnette had the third-biggest GOP loot, $346,000, well below stratospheric totals for Oz and McCormick.
His latest fundraiser was even more than the combined amount raised by Sands ($103,000) and Montgomery County real estate developer Jeff Bartos ($118,000).
Bartos still had $2.4 million in his campaign fund, having already contributed $1.2 million of his own money.
Sands, who previously ran a major real estate investment firm – but is only the third-richest Republican in the business – had $603,000 in her campaign fund, having given her $3.9 million, of which $300,000 last quarter.
Barnette had only $261,000 left.