SALEM — Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, ranks 21st. His Republican opponent in the November general election, Jo Rae Perkins, ranks 189th.

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader was ranked 109th, but he lost the Democratic primary for the 5th Congressional District to Jaime McLeod-Skinner, who ranked 478th.

Right behind is Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer at 489th — she won the Republican primary in the 5th district and goes into the November election against McLeod-Skinner.

The numbers reflect fundraising rankings of candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House as compiled by the Federal Elections Commission.

Altogether, the races for control of Congress have passed $2 billion, with five months to go until the Nov. 8 general election.

The FEC ranks the 3,386 candidates for the 435 U.S. House seats. With two-year terms, all seats are on the ballot in November. Democrats currently hold a thin 220-208 majority, with seven vacancies.

Senators are elected to six-year terms, with about one-third of the 100 seats up for election every two years. In 2022, there are 35 seats on the ballot, with 631 candidates filing reports with the FEC. The Senate is split 50-50, where Democrats have nominal control because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote on some legislation in her role as president of the Senate.

Campaign finance laws

State and federal campaign law have different rules, with states able to control campaign finance laws and limits for governor, their legislature and other offices. But all candidates for Congress must follow the rules of the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C.

The difference between state and federal law is enormous in Oregon, where state races can raise an unlimited amount from nearly every source — businesses, union, activist groups, and individuals. That’s why Nike founder Phil Knight is able to write multiple checks over $1 million for candidates or causes he supports.

Knight has already given $1.75 million to former Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who plans to run as a non-affiliated candidate for governor.

Johnson would be part of a three-way race with Democrat Tina Kotek and Republican Christine Drazan that could blow past the record $40 million raised in the 2018 governor’s race won by incumbent Democrat Gov. Kate Brown over former the Republican nominee, former Rep. Knute Buehler of Bend.

The race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Wyden, and the six U.S. House districts on the ballot, fall under the extensive labyrinth of federal election law.

FEC rules limit individual contributions and bar direct giving by corporations and other groups. But a cottage industry of fundraising consultants has sprung up to help candidates navigate the shoals of building their war chests without violating federal law.

The rankings compiled by the FEC are only for the amount raised directly by the candidate’s campaign committee. It does not count outside spending for or against candidates.

The list is not even up-to-date. The current FEC rankings only cover contributions through April 27. In Oregon, that means nearly two weeks of contributions prior to the May 17 primary are not part of the total.

Whopping numbers

But the numbers on the list are already whopping.

All U.S. House candidates have combined to raise $1.14 billion. Republicans raised $579.2 million vs. $558.8 million by Democrats.

The top individual fundraiser is U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at just under $20 million. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is in second place at just under $17.3 million.

Both leaders will spend much of the money to bolster efforts to elect more members of their party.

Money doesn’t always translate into victory on election day. Schrader, the highest-ranking Oregon candidate for the U.S. House, lost to McLeod-Skinner, who has raised $692,784.

Chavez-DeRemer, a former mayor of Happy Valley in Clackamas County, raised $669,145 in the successful bid to win the Republican nomination for the 5th district.

In the 35 U.S. Senate races, candidates have raised nearly $834 million. Republicans have raised $423.2 million, while Democrats hit $407.1 million.

The biggest individual fundraiser — by far — is U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. He’s pulled in $73.2 million for his attempt to win a full six-year term in 2022. He won a 2020 special election to fill out the final two years of the term of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who resigned in 2019 due to health issues. Warnock defeated Kelly Loeffler, the Republican appointed to the seat by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

The No. 2 in raising money is Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, with just over $44.1 million.

In Oregon, fundraising illustrated the wide gap between the incumbent and challenger. Wyden has held the seat since a 1996 special election. He’s raised $11.6 million for his campaign to win another six-year term. Perkins, the GOP nominee, has raised $26,154.

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