Elon Musk, chief executive officer and co-founder of Tesla Motors Inc. (Photographer: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg)

Musk Among the Millionaires and Billionaires Funding Midterms

(Bloomberg) -- Mega donors began flooding political committees with six and seven-figure contributions in recent months as the fight for control of Congress and the future of President Donald Trump’s agenda intensified ahead of November’s election.

Billionaire inventor Elon Musk was among those putting money into the 2018 campaign, sending $38,900 to a committee backing U.S. House Republicans. Others from Wall Street to Hollywood dug deeper, according to second-quarter Federal Election Commission filings that were due late Sunday.

The intensified flow of money comes as the campaign season is entering its peak, with less than four months until the election and as the costs associated with a growing wave of television commercials in competitive congressional districts and states expands. Some of the other big committees that will play important roles in the fight for Congress file their reports on a monthly basis, with their next installment due before the end of Friday.

Trump, who reaffirmed his intentions to run for re-election in an interview late last week, reported raising $17.7 million during the second quarter through three committees gathering money for a second-term bid. Through his campaign and two joint committees that split proceeds between his re-election effort and the Republican National Committee, he’s now raised more than $88 million and would start with a cushion against whoever emerges from what could be a plethora of Democrats lining up to challenge him.

Top Donor

Trump’s top donor during the quarter was Andrew Beal, a Texas banker and real estate investor who was a member of his campaign economic advisory team. Beal gave $339,000 in late April, records show.

Los Angeles real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer contributed $2 million to America First Action, Inc., a super PAC that backs candidates who support Trump’s agenda. Overall, it raised $5 million, and ended June with $11.3 million in the bank.

Billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, contributed $30 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund. The super PAC, which is aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan and the chamber’s Republican hierarchy, is backing GOP efforts to hold onto the House majority. It ended the quarter with $71.4 million in the bank after raising $51.4 million.

Republican Backers

Timothy Mellon, an heir to the Pittsburgh banking and steel fortune, contributed $10 million. Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans professional football team, gave $1 million. Coal baron Joe Craft, whose wife Kelly Knight Craft is the U.S. ambassador to Canada, gave $750,000. Wisconsin building supply mogul Diane Hendricks and brokerage firm founder Charles Schwab were among those contributing at the $250,000 level during the quarter.

Citadel LLC founder Ken Griffin gave $5 million to a super PAC supporting Florida Governor Rick Scott in his bid to unseat Senator Bill Nelson, one of 10 Senate Democrats who face re-election this year in states Trump won in 2016. Overall, the New Republican PAC reported raising $7.1 million and having $3.3 million in the bank at the end of June.

Richard Uihlein, one of the nation’s top donors to conservative candidates and causes, continued his heavy giving to try to influence the Senate race in Wisconsin. The owner of a packaging materials company based in Wisconsin, Uihlein contributed $2 million to Club for Growth Action Wisconsin in mid-June.

Wisconsin Race

The super PAC is backing businessman Kevin Nicholson over state Senator Leah Vukmir in the Aug. 14 Republican primary. The two Wisconsin Republicans are fighting an intense battle to take on Senator Tammy Baldwin in another state where Trump won in 2016.

David Humphreys, president and CEO of Joplin-based TAMKO Building Products, contributed $850,000 to Club for Growth Action Missouri. The super PAC is backing Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, the frontrunner in the Aug. 7 Republican primary to win the right to challenge Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in another state Trump won.

Vin Ryan, founder of Schooner Capital LLC, gave $849,000 to the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that supports state committees and the Democratic National Committee. It was the only donation the group received.

Musk, a self-proclaimed socialist, gave $38,900 to Protect the House, which raised $8.7 million during the quarter. Last year, Tesla Inc.’s chief executive officer gave $50,000 to a different group benefiting House GOP members.

Both Parties

After the latest contribution rekindled some of the protests from liberal groups that pressured him over his role last year on a White House economic advisory panel, Musk took to Twitter over the weekend to say that he’s “not a conservative” and contributes to both parties to “maintain dialogue.”

The House Victory Project, a similar committee that’s raising money for 11 House Democratic challengers in competitive districts, took in $5.2 million. Among those giving at least $25,000 were hedge fund founder David E. Shaw, Mark Gallogly of Centerbridge Partners LP, and former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, who both served under President Bill Clinton.

Deborah Simon, an Indiana-based philanthropist ranked as the sixth-largest individual donor so far this election cycle, contributed $500,000 to American Bridge 21st Century. The group, which provides opposition research on Republican candidates, raised $2.5 million in the quarter.

Republicans are trying to counter a historical a pattern in which the party that holds the White House almost always loses seats in midterm elections. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to win the House and since the end of World War II the president’s party has had an average net loss of 26 House seats in midterm elections.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.