Big takeaways from first quarter 2023 congressional fundraising

Democratic power brokers raked in the cash while Rep. George Santos barely received any donations.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries raised the most money in the first quarter among New York members of Congress.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries raised the most money in the first quarter among New York members of Congress. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A third of New York’s congressional delegation has only been in office for a couple of months, but that’s not stopping them – or their more seasoned colleagues – from fundraising for their reelection campaigns. New campaign finance filings covering the first three months of 2023 showed that fundraising has gotten underway for 2024, with the help of Republican political action committees and joint fundraising committees hoping maintain the party’s thin majority in the House – and from Democratic committees hoping to flip it. Here’s who was on top, and who had some catching up to do, as of the end of March.

Democratic powerhouses and battleground freshmen top fundraising 

Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – two big-time incumbents with little reason to worry about challengers – raked in the most dough for their campaigns in the first three months of the year, bringing in $3,676,281 and $1,268,221, respectively.

With the exception of Republican House Conference Chair Elise Stefanik – who ranked fourth, bringing in $1,117,318 – the bulk of the other top fundraisers were first-term members in battleground districts. Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan raised $1,155,020, while Republican Reps. Mike Lawler, Anthony D’Esposito, Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams all brought in more than $500,000. Those four each received boosts between $130,000 and $140,000 from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s joint fundraising committee, Protect the House 2024.

Santos leads low performers

Rep. George Santos, the Long Island Republican who lied about most of his resume to get elected last year, declared his reelection campaign this week after having raised just $5,333 in the first three months of this year. That’s the lowest fundraising of any other incumbent seeking reelection in 2024, by a long shot. Santos is being outraised by Democratic Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who brought in $345,303 through the end of March in his campaign to unseat Santos.

Big spenders

Perhaps even more notable in Santos’ first quarter filing was the fact that he returned $8,352 in donations – roughly $3,000 more than he raised. While all other incumbents raised at least $100,000 in the first three months of the year, Santos wasn’t alone in seeing more money flow out than flow in. Democratic Reps. Grace Meng, Paul Tonko, Yvette Clarke and Gregory Meeks all spent more than they raised between January and March. Though unlike Santos, the others actually spent most of that money for their campaign and not just on refunding donors. Of the $357,690 he spent though, Meeks did report returning $20,300 in individual contributions.

PACs in action

It’s early, but political action committees from across the country are already injecting cash into New York campaigns – including in districts that very early projections mark as toss-ups. That includes New York’s 4th Congressional District, where D’Esposito reported $304,649 in contributions from political action committees – more than the $215,852 he received in individual contributions – including $2,900 from the conservative Club for Growth. In New York’s 17th Congressional District, Lawler also reported more in contributions from political action committees ($365,000) than from individuals ($205,312). Several Democrats also took in more from PACs than from individuals in the first quarter, including Meeks, Clarke and Rep. Joe Morelle.