Political leanings: Democratic
2018 total spending: $165.6 million
The Senate Majority PAC is a super PAC that describes itself as “solely dedicated to building a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.”
In the 2018 election cycle, the Senate Majority PAC raised more than $164 million — the most of any super PAC, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by the Center for Responsive Politics. It spent $165.6 million, including nearly $112 million on independent expenditures, which the Federal Election Commission defines as spending on advertising that expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a federal candidate.
As of April 2020, the super PAC had raised nearly $107 million and spent roughly $45 million.
During the 2018 election cycle, the committee’s biggest individual contributor was Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and current Democratic presidential candidate. Bloomberg gave the super PAC $20 million.
Other major donors in the 2018 cycle included Fred Eychaner, a retired media executive, who gave $6 million; hedge fund billionaire James Simons, more than $6 million; hedge fund executive S. Donald Sussman, $5 million; Henry Laufer, a former chief scientist and vice president of research for Renaissance Technologies, $2 million; and billionaire George Soros and his son, Alexander, who gave a combined $5.4 million.
For the 2020 cycle, the top donors so far include Eychaner, who has donated $8 million; Sussman, who has donated $4 million; and Deborah Simon, a philanthropist, who has donated $3.5 million.
The super PAC is headed by J.B. Poersch, a former director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Poersch was named the super PAC’s president in early 2017. Its other senior advisers include co-founders Susan McCue and Rebecca Lambe, who were political aides to former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
On Oct. 28, the PAC announced a new round of senior staff hires, including Ghada Alkiek as political manager. She previously served as Michigan Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee’s deputy chief of staff.
As a super PAC, the Senate Majority PAC is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts, but it must report expenditures and all donations of more than $200 to the Federal Election Commission. The super PAC cannot make contributions to candidate committees and cannot coordinate independent expenditures with a candidate campaign referenced in the advertising.
So far, in the 2020 election cycle, the Senate Majority PAC has reported spending nearly $15 million in independent expenditures. Half that amount was spent in support of three Democratic candidates for the Senate — Sara Gideon in Maine, Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is up for reelection in New Hampshire. The other half was spent against Republican candidates, including John James in Michigan, and Sens. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner and Steve Daines, who are running to keep their seats in Maine, Colorado and Montana, respectively.
During the 2018 campaign cycle, the Democratic super PAC reported spending more than $92.9 million on independent expenditures opposing Republican candidates and $19.3 million supporting Democrats. The super PAC focused primarily on four key Senate races. They unsuccessfully tried to defend Democratic Senate seats in Missouri, Florida and Indiana, but picked up a Senate seat in Nevada. Combined, the Senate Majority PAC spent more than $62.5 million against Republican challengers Josh Hawley in Missouri, Rick Scott in Florida and Mike Braun in Indiana, who all won their races. The super PAC was successful in helping Jacky Rosen defeat Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who lost by 5 percentage points.
Senate Majority PAC is affiliated with Majority Forward, a 501(c)(4) organization that does not have to disclose its donors. During the 2018 campaign, Majority Forward contributed more than $1.3 million to the Senate Majority PAC and carried out voter registration efforts to help increase turnout among Democrats.
Senate Majority PAC also worked in 2018 with Priorities USA Action, a liberal super PAC, on digital ad campaigns. Priorities USA Action spent $44.8 million in 2018, including $27.5 million in independent expenditures. For this election cycle, Priorities USA Action has spent $182,333, which includes $1,250 in independent expenditures. They have also raised $4.8 million, primarily from Sussman, who has already donated $2 million.
There are 35 Senate seats up for grabs in 2020, including 12 held by Democrats. The Democrats need a net gain of four seats in order to regain control of the Senate from the Republicans, who currently hold 53 seats.
FactCheck.org Undergraduate Fellow Mitchell Aronoff contributed to this article.