- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2016

A super PAC supporting Senate Republican candidates more than doubled the August fundraising haul of the main pro-Democratic Senate super PAC and started September with about three times as much money on hand, indicating that even as Hillary Clinton continues to outraise Donald Trump, Republicans still have the potential to benefit from big-time donors in the closing stretch of the campaign.

The Senate Leadership Fund, powered by a collective $20 million from billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, raised $28 million last month and started September with about $40 million on hand.

That was well ahead of Senate Majority PAC, the main super PAC promoting Democratic Senate candidates, which raised $11.6 million in August and had $12.1 million at the end of the month.

“A lot of mainstream Republican donors who may have been Rubio or Bush or past Romney supporters are stepping up to do everything they can to make sure that Republicans maintain control of the Senate as a firewall against either one of the possible presidents,” said Republican lawyer Charlie Spies, who served as counsel for the pro-Jeb Bush super PAC Right to Rise USA.

The Senate Democrats’ official campaign arm, meanwhile, did outpace their Republican counterparts, raising $8.5 million last month and starting September with $34 million on hand. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) raised close to $6.5 million in August and finished the month with about $11.9 million on hand.

That makes groups like the Senate Leadership Fund, which is unconstrained by stricter donation limits placed on individual candidates and party committees, all the more critical for Republican Senate candidates who are watching Mr. Trump continue to get out-raised by Mrs. Clinton.

“It’s critically important as a hedge against whatever happens in the presidential race,” Mr. Spies said.

Nevertheless, Shripal Shah, a spokesman for Senate Majority PAC, said they’re on offense across an expanding map, and if the election were held now, Democrats would take back the Senate.

“Even Republicans recognize this reality — that’s why they’re spending so heavily to try and shore up vulnerable incumbents,” he said.

Republicans hold an effective 54-46 majority in the U.S. Senate, but they’re defending more than twice as many seats as Democrats are this year.

Outside pro-Republican groups are looking to pick up some of the slack from Mr. Trump, who has posted more robust fundraising figures in recent months but still lags Mrs. Clinton and her allies.

Combined with associated committees, the Clinton campaign said they collectively brought in more than $140 million for August and had about $152 million on hand at the start of September.

The Trump campaign said earlier this month that combined with associated committees, they collectively raised $90 million in August and closed the month with about $97 million on hand.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said his candidates are running races that can be separated out from what’s going on at the presidential level to a certain extent.

But there are key Senate races in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida - states where Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton are locked in tight battles that could determine the outcome of the presidential election. So it’s possible that Mr. Trump could reap some indirect benefits from outside spending intended to boost down-ticket Republicans.

In announcing that the Republican National Committee has raised about $223 million for the cycle through August, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said this week there is close coordination between the RNC and the Trump campaign.

“We are working hand in glove with the Trump campaign to build the field organization we need to elect Donald Trump president and preserve our majorities in the House and Senate,” Mr. Priebus said.

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