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Hawley, Kunce draw heavily on donors outside Missouri to fuel U.S. Senate campaigns


U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley and Democrat Lucas Kunce have something big in common – their campaigns are heavily dependent on money from outside Missouri.

Hawley, a Republican incumbent seeking his second term, and Kunce, who narrowly lost the 2022 Democratic primary for Senate, are the best-funded candidates in the race, according to campaign finance reports filed last week.

With a little over a year to go before the election, Hawley, elected in 2018, has amassed a bank account of almost $5 million. Kunce, who began his large-scale fundraising this year, held $1.7 million in his account at the end of September.

Each has thousands of small donors, some reported to the Federal Election Commission as giving as little as one cent. In the three months ending Sept. 30, Hawley listed 5,301 individual contributions, while Kunce reported just over 6,000.

Hawley raised $451,000 from named individual donors out of $829,000 in direct contributions during the quarter. During the same period, Kunce took in $587,000 from individuals listed in his report.

Less than one-third of the itemized donations to Hawley’s campaign came from Missouri residents and fewer than one-quarter of all itemized contributions originated in the state.

Fewer than 40% of the individual donations to Kunce are from addresses in the state, representing about $2 of every $5 reported.

Individual contributors may give up to $3,300 to federal candidates for each election. Candidates can accept contributions earmarked for either the primary or general election. Federal law does not require disclosure of the name of donors who give less than $50.

While Hawley has only one GOP challenger who has filed candidacy paperwork with the FEC, Kunce faces St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, state Sen. Karla May of St. Louis and December Harmon, a Columbia activist, for the Democratic nomination.

An independent candidate, Jared Young of Webb City, has raised $70,000 and loaned his campaign $100,000, but must gather 10,000 signatures from registered voters to appear on the ballot.

Both Hawley and Kunce reported large amounts of unitemized contributions which cannot be traced geographically. Hawley took in $378,000 from unlisted donors, while Kunce raised $892,000 from people who are not named in his report.

Most of the rest of the money Hawley raised came from contributions transferred from a PAC supporting his campaign called Josh Hawley Victory Committee.

Both campaigns are heavily focused on raising large amounts from small donors who respond either directly to email solicitations or donate through party-focused organizations like WinRed, which collects money for Republicans, and ActBlue, which helps Democrats.

In 2021, ProPublica reported that Hawley was spending heavily to rent email lists and using his effort to block the Congressional count of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021, to attract contributions. That action, and Hawley’s famous raised-fist salute to the demonstrators who later rioted at the Capital, cost him some of his wealthiest early Missouri backers who helped Hawley become Missouri attorney general in 2016.

Hawley has continued to spend heavily as he prepares for the 2024 election year. His campaign report for the three months ending Sept. 30 showed his main campaign committee has spent $3 million since Jan. 1, $800,000 more than he has raised this year.

Hawley had $4.7 million in cash on hand at the end of September. He is seeking his second term in the Senate. He won an expensive, hard-fought campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2018.

Hawley’s lone Republican challenger is Christopher Murray of St. Louis County. Murray has not reported raising or spending any money.

Kunce, who narrowly lost the 2022 Democratic primary for Senate to Trudy Busch Valentine, had $1.7 million on hand at the end of September. Kunce has raised $3.9 million this year while spending $2.2 million.

Bell has raised $281,000. Just over $100,000 of that came from 188 itemized individual donations during the third quarter, 90% from within Missouri. Bell had $88,000 in cash on hand on Sept. 30.

May has raised $15,000 for her campaign, and had $14,228 available at the end of the quarter. Harmon reported raising $9,300 this year, with $1,300 on hand.

In a news release about his report, Kunce’s campaign said his total was the most money raised so early by a Senate challenger in Missouri. The release also touted the number of small donors, stating the average contribution was $31.

That figure includes unitemized contributions. For the listed contributions, 2,200 in-state donations averaged $115 and the 3,873 contributions from outside Missouri averaged $91.

Hawley’s 1,209 listed contributions from within the state averaged $115, while his contributions from addresses outside the state averaged $78.

The $536,106 transferred from PACs, mainly the Josh Hawley Victory Committee, also is tilted heavily toward out-of-state donors. For the 8,313 transferred donations, 64% of the money contributed was from outside Missouri.