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Leaders of the PAC: Which 2012 US Senate Incumbents are Most Reliant on PAC Donations?

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Tom Carper, Ben Nelson, and Joe Manchin have received the largest percentage of funds from political committees this cycle

tomcarper10.jpgFor the 2012 election, 25 incumbent U.S. Senators are running out of the 33 Senate races that will be held across the nation.

While it is unclear at this stage which races will turn into the kind of fundraising battle royal of an Al Franken vs. Norm Coleman (Minnesota, 2008), most candidates are willing and eager to accept contributions from political committees.

The 2012 incumbents who have netted the most PAC money overall in the cycle to date are Utah Republican Orrin Hatch ($2.54 million), Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson ($2.44 million), Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow ($2.21 million), and Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown ($2.02 million).

Only five of the 25 incumbents running for reelection next year have raised less than $1 million from political committees - and two of them were only elected within the last 12 months: Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington ($53K), independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont ($249K), Republican Dean Heller of Nevada ($598K), Republican Dick Lugar of Indiana ($722K), and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin ($732K).

However, an examination of the percentage of PAC money each candidate has secured as a total of all funds raised finds the top of the leader board shifts somewhat.

A quick glance at those most reliant on PAC funds reveals senators who are representing many of the nation's least populated states: Democrat Tom Carper from Delaware at #1 (59.2 percent), Ben Nelson from Nebraska at #2 (55.5 percent), Joe Manchin of West Virginia at #3 (46.4 percent), Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming at #4 (45.6 percent), Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine at #5 (45.3 percent), Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah at #6 (43.0 percent), and Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi at #7 (42.4 percent).

Those senators representing more populated states appear in the middle and lower end of the list: Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California at #10 (31.3 percent), Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio at #16 (25.4 percent), Democrat Bob Casey of Pennsylvania at #17 (24.4 percent), Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida at #18 (22.5 percent), Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey at #21 (18.1 percent), and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York at #23 (13.8 percent).

Carper (59.2 percent) and Ben Nelson (55.5 percent) are the only two 2012 incumbents who have raised over half of their money in the cycle to date from political committees, while Washington's Maria Cantwell (0.8 percent) and Vermont's Bernie Sanders (7.1 percent) are the only two to raise less than 10 percent from such funds.

Overall, PACs constitute an average of 26.4 percent of the funds raised by the 25 U.S. Senators running for reelection next year.

Percent of PAC Money in Cycle to Date Donations to U.S. Senate Incumbents Running for Reelection in 2012

Rank
State
Senator
Party
PAC $
Total
% PAC
1
DE
Tom Carper
DEM
$1,601,101
$2,704,402
59.2
2
NE
Ben Nelson
DEM
$2,442,545
$4,404,513
55.5
3
WV
Joe Manchin
DEM
$732,719
$1,578,006
46.4
4
WY
John Barrasso
GOP
$1,059,335
$2,324,019
45.6
5
ME
Olympia Snowe
GOP
$1,432,621
$3,163,411
45.3
6
UT
Orrin Hatch
GOP
$2,549,753
$5,928,803
43.0
7
MS
Roger Wicker
GOP
$1,176,165
$2,773,599
42.4
8
MD
Ben Cardin
DEM
$1,319,072
$3,566,729
37.0
9
RI
Sheldon Whitehouse
DEM
$1,218,916
$3,760,576
32.4
10
CA
Dianne Feinstein
DEM
$1,241,937
$3,969,081
31.3
11
NV
Dean Heller
GOP
$598,850
$1,973,577
30.3
12
MT
Jon Tester
DEM
$1,516,659
$5,067,155
29.9
13
MI
Debbie Stabenow
DEM
$2,210,014
$7,627,258
29.0
14
MN
Amy Klobuchar
DFL
$1,404,192
$5,076,516
27.7
15
MO
Claire McCaskill
DEM
$1,263,238
$4,783,659
26.4
16
OH
Sherrod Brown
DEM
$2,028,831
$7,998,613
25.4
17
PA
Bob Casey
DEM
$1,488,989
$6,095,956
24.4
18
FL
Bill Nelson
DEM
$1,905,536
$8,476,905
22.5
19
TN
Bob Corker
GOP
$1,480,888
$7,802,049
19.0
20
IN
Richard Lugar
GOP
$722,035
$3,811,058
18.9
21
NJ
Bob Menendez
DEM
$1,800,843
$9,947,611
18.1
22
MA
Scott Brown
GOP
$1,309,139
$7,633,644
17.1
23
NY
Kirsten Gillibrand
DEM
$1,108,982
$8,065,256
13.8
24
VT
Bernie Sanders
IND
$249,066
$3,525,460
7.1
25
WA
Maria Cantwell
DEM
$53,592
$6,366,244
0.8
Total
$33,915,018
$128,424,100
26.4
Note: 'Total' denotes all contributions for the cycle to date excluding loans and transfers from a candidate's other committees. Table compiled by Smart Politics from FEC data through Q3 2011.

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