J.D. Vance's Campaign Fundraising Is Down to Its Bootstraps


The J.D. Vance campaign is broke.

That’s the key takeaway from Federal Election Commission filings this week, which show that between mid-April and the end of June, the Vance team raised a million dollars, spent more than that, and is a quarter of a million dollars in the hole with just four months until election day.

It’s something of a head-scratcher for a candidate with national name recognition, who won the GOP primary for a critical Senate seat smack in the middle of the fundraising period.

But the Vance campaign has never been a major money draw.

Over the first three months of the year, the campaign directly raised $38,000 in total and got so close to bottoming out its cash reserves that in late March Vance personally floated himself a $600,000 bridge loan.

Fortunes turned with Trump’s endorsement in April, and Vance caught a windfall heading into the May 3 primary, but he hasn’t seemed able to translate the win into financial support. Eight weeks later, the campaign was in the red, reporting about $628,000 in the bank and $883,000 in debt—a deficit of more than $250,000.

The Vance campaign declined to comment.

His Democratic opponent, Rep. Tim Ryan, raised $9.1 million over the same period. The Ryan campaign told NBC News that in that time it added nearly 90,000 new donors and that most of the donations were in amounts of $100 or less.

It’s not the full picture for Vance, whose fundraising operation includes a leadership PAC and joint fundraising committees. But even that isn’t much better.

Most of the campaign’s haul last quarter came in transfers from the “Ohioans for JD” joint fundraising committee, which split about a million dollars between the campaign and Vance’s leadership PAC. The joint committee is still sitting on about $300,000 but owes about $200,000.

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Another joint committee—“Vance Victory”—pulled in around $725,000. But the campaign has to share that with the leadership PAC and the Ohio Republican Party.

Vance’s leadership PAC, called “Working for Ohio,” is faring the best. The PAC added $108,000 to its stash last quarter, for a total of $461,000 on hand. And unlike the campaign and Ohioans for JD, this committee doesn’t have any debt.

But that won’t help the Vance campaign. Candidates can use leadership PAC money for a lot of things—some critics call the accounts “personal slush funds”—but they can’t spend those funds on their own campaigns. They can, however, transfer it to their allies, as Vance has, passing thousands of dollars to GOP candidates including his friend Blake Masters in Arizona and former Trump aide Max “Music Man” Miller, who is running for Congress in Ohio.

While the picture might look a little grim, Vance can count on outside support from high-dollar donors. In fact, most of his support comes from outside his own campaign, in the form of a super PAC called “Protect Ohio Values.”

The group, which has been accused by campaign watchdog groups of unlawful coordination with the Vance campaign, has only a handful of donors. But those donors have put millions of dollars behind the Ohio author—a total $17.4 million, with about $7 million of that coming after April 14.

But as the picture gets bigger, Vance’s circle of support actually looks smaller.

The handful of wealthy super PAC donors have outraised the Vance campaign nearly six to one. And the vast majority of the super PAC’s cash has come from just one person, Republican megadonor and Vance business partner Peter Thiel.

Since March 2021, Thiel has given the super PAC $15 million. That’s almost five times as much as the Vance campaign has raised altogether.

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