The 27 Politicians Who Raised the Most Money — And Still Lost

Posted on November 24, 2015 by Palmer Gibbs

Charles Dharapak/AP Images

As InsideGov, and just about every other politics news site, has pointed out, running for office is an expensive endeavor. There are TV ads to buy, a campaign staff to feed and lots of candidate-branded T-shirts and hats to make.

Provided all of that translates into a win come Election Day, it’d be easy not to dwell on all the work in favor of another round of celebratory champagne. But what about when a candidate raises loads of cash yet can’t convert all of that effort and money into a win at the polls?

Using data from the Federal Election Commission, InsideGov looked at the candidates who raised the most money but still lost their respective elections.

#27. Citizens for Josh Mandel Inc., 2012

Total Raised: $18,912,557

In 2012, Republican Josh Mandel ran to represent Ohio in the Senate against incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel is now the treasurer of Ohio.

#26. Alison for Kentucky, 2014

Total Raised: $18,981,293

A Kentucky native with many well-connected contacts in the Democratic Party, Alison Lundergan Grimes attempted to topple Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell during the 2014 midterms. Grimes, who lost 56.2 percent to 40.7 percent, currently is Kentucky’s Secretary of State.

#25. Coleman for Senate ’08, 2008

Total Raised: $19,298,843

After one term in the Senate, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman ran for reelection in Minnesota in 2008. He lost a very close contest — Coleman conceded the race eight months after Election Day, after multiple recounts and court rulings — to Sen. Al Franken, a “Saturday Night Live” alum turned Democratic candidate. For his part, Franken raised $22,502,124 that year.

#24. Allen West for Congress, 2012

Total Raised: $19,359,330

Former Rep. Allen West rode the tea party wave into the House in 2010. When the Florida Republican ran for reelection two years later, he lost to Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy in the year’s most expensive House race, according to Open Secrets.

#23. Inc., 2012

Total Raised: $20,593,581

In late summer 2011, former Gov. Rick Perry announced he would run for the White House. The Texas Republican ended up dropping out of the race on January 19, 2012, but during his five-month-long campaign, he collected more than $20 million from supporters.

#22. Hagan for U.S. Senate Inc., 2014

Total Raised: $22,516,118

In one of the most closely watched Senate races of the 2014 midterm election, former Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan lost her reelection bid to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis. Before heading to Capitol Hill, Tillis logged eight years in the North Carolina House of Representatives, including four as the state’s Speaker of the House. The Hagan-Tillis matchup was the most expensive Senate race of the year; according to Open Secrets, outside groups spent almost $83 million on the race.

#21. Carly for California Inc., 2010

Total Raised: $22,705,617

The 2016 presidential race isn’t the first time Republican Carly Fiorina has dipped her toe into political waters. The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard ran against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010 to represent California in the U.S. Senate. Despite raising close to $23 million in that race, the Washington Post reported some of her campaign’s staff didn’t get paid until January 2015 — three months before she announced she was running for president.

According to InsideGov tallies, Fiorina has raised almost $8.5 million so far in her White House bid this year.

#20. Rick Santorum for President Inc., 2012

Total Raised: $23,552,730

Former Sen. Rick Santorum mounted an unsuccessful White House bid in 2012, raising more than $23.5 million along the way. After an incredibly close vote in Iowa in January 2012, the Pennsylvania Republican was declared the winner of the influential caucuses. Politico reported that in the 24 hours after the Iowa vote, Santorum raised $1 million. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough, and Santorum called it quits in April 2012.

#19. Jeff Greene for Florida, 2010

Total Raised: $23,872,916

The 2010 Senate contest in Florida was a bit of a free-for-all: a three-way race between Republican Marco Rubio, then the Speaker of the House in Florida’s House of Representatives; former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican who became an Independent in the middle of the race; and Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.

But before Meek earned his party’s nomination, he had to fend off multiple challengers during the primary, including Jeff Greene, a billionaire who made a sizeable fortune on real estate investments. Greene’s primarily self-funded campaign amassed close to $24 million.

#18. Richardson for President Inc., 2008

Total Raised: $24,852,093

Former Gov. Bill Richardson was among the first Democrats to declare he was running for president in the wide-open 2008 contest. The New Mexico governor dropped out of the primary race soon after poor showings in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. Richardson endorsed then-Sen. Barack Obama over then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, a surprising move considering Richardson headed up the Department of Energy under former President Bill Clinton. At the time, Richardson explained to Fox News: “I am very loyal to the Clintons. I served under President Clinton. … But you know … it shouldn’t just be Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton.”

#17. Newt 2012, 2012

Total Raised: $24,975,907

A longtime member of Congress, Rep. Newt Gingrich served as Speaker of the House during most of former President Bill Clinton’s eight years in the White House. In 2012, Gingrich parlayed those years of experience into a presidential run of his own.

#16. Scott Brown for U.S. Senate Committee Inc., 2012

Total Raised: $28,154,602

In a marquee Senate race in the 2012 cycle, Democrat Elizabeth Warren toppled Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who won the seat in a 2010 special election after Sen. Ted Kennedy died. Brown — a former model who posed nude in Cosmopolitan in 1982 — tried running for Senate in nearby New Hampshire in 2014, but lost that contest, too.

#15. Friends of Sharron Angle, 2010

Total Raised: $28,162,049

After an unsuccessful run at the House in 2006, Sharron Angle tried her hand at a Senate race, challenging longtime Democratic Sen. Harry Reid four years later. Despite collecting a fistful of conservative endorsements and a ton of campaign cash, the Nevada Republican couldn’t get a win, even as a tea party favorite in the GOP wave of 2010.

#14. Dewhurst for Texas, 2012

Total Raised: $33,939,611

Former Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ran for Senate in 2012, when the seat opened up after former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison stepped down to run for governor. Hutchison lost the Republican primary to former Gov. Rick Perry, as did Dewhurst. Former Solicitor General Ted Cruz beat Dewhurst in the GOP primary, but not before the latter raked in almost $34 million — just for the in-state primary.

#13. Ron Paul 2008 Presidential Campaign Committee, 2008

Total Raised: $35,121,860

Former Rep. Ron Paul represented Texas in the U.S. House off and on from the mid 1970s to 2013. In that time, the spritely Republican mounted three bids for the White House: one in 1988 as a Libertarian and then in 2008 and 2012 as a Republican. Although he never won his party’s nomination, he raised boatloads of cash, largely thanks to so-called money bombs, where a campaign taps its donors for cash (usually small-dollar donations) during a fixed amount of time.

#12. Tom Smith for Senate Inc., 2012

Total Raised: $37,774,108

In 2012, Tom Smith raised more than $37.7 million in his attempt to unseat first-term Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr.

Smith, who died in October 2015, re-registered as a Republican a year before the Senate race. Smith dumped millions of his own money into his unsuccessful campaign.

#11. Ron Paul 2012 Presidential Campaign Committee Inc., 2012

Total Raised: $41,060,317

During his third run for the White House, former Rep. Ron Paul raised even more money than he did in his 2008 attempt. The Texas Republican, known for his unyielding advocacy of limited government, has been called the tea party’s “intellectual godfather.” His son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is running for president in the 2016 race as a libertarian-leaning conservative.

#10. McCain-Palin Compliance Fund Inc., 2008

Total Raised: $48,328,863

The Federal Election Commission allows presidential hopefuls to set up a fundraising committee that will help them pay for the lawyers and accountants who will keep tabs on the ins and outs of campaign finance reporting. During their White House run in 2008, Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin set up one of these so-called compliance funds, and raised more than $48 million for it.

#9. Linda McMahon for Senate 2010, 2010

Total Raised: $50,285,122

What happens when the person who co-created World Wrestling Entertainment decides she wants to run for Senate? You get Linda McMahon, a businesswoman turned Republican who ran as a fiscal conservative, outsider candidate in Connecticut’s 2010 Senate race. She lost to Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, one of the few wins for Democrats in the 2010 Republican wave.

#8. Linda McMahon for Senate 2012 Inc., 2012

Total Raised: $51,002,456

If that 2010 race doesn’t go the way you want it to, why not try again two years later? The wrestling magnate went for round two in 2012, in a matchup with former Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy. Murphy won the Connecticut Senate seat with 55 percent of the vote. In total, Linda McMahon threw in close to $100 million of her own money into her two unsuccessful political campaigns, according to the New York Times.

#7. John Edwards for President, 2008

Total Raised: $62,713,069

Once considered the Democratic Party’s golden boy, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards came crashing down after he was indicted in 2011 on charges of violating campaign contribution laws in order to cover up an extramarital affair.

The one-time VP pick, Edwards ran for the White House in 2008 on a campaign focused on ending poverty. During that race, he collected almost $63 million. He dropped out in January 2008 after poor showings in the first round of primaries and caucuses.

#6. Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee Inc., 2008

Total Raised: $64,767,316

Called “America’s mayor” in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was considered the early favorite in 2008 for the Republican Party’s pick for president. During his one year in the primary race, Giuliani raised close to $65 million.

#5. McCain-Palin 2008 Inc., 2008

Total Raised: $111,653,995

The official committee supporting the Republican presidential ticket in ’08, McCain-Palin 2008 Inc. raised more than $111 million. It was formed in August 2008 under a different name, but changed to include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin once she officially joined the ballot.

#4. Romney for President Inc., 2008

Total Raised: $113,659,805

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney collected a hefty sum during his first run for the White House in 2008. His campaign lasted a few days shy of a full year (he dropped out in February 2008), and Romney chipped in about $45 million of his own dough to the cause.

#3. John McCain 2008 Inc., 2008

Total Raised: $239,843,227

Sen. John McCain has had his eye on the White House since 2000, when he lost in the GOP primary to George W. Bush, who was the Texas governor at the time. As Bush wrapped up his two terms as president, McCain made moves for another run and set up a fundraising committee in November 2006. That committee stayed with the Arizona Republican throughout his 2008 bid, and was one of the three fundraising committees affiliated with the McCain-Palin ticket.

#2. Hillary Clinton for President, 2008

Total Raised: $252,235,516

During the bitter Democratic presidential primary in 2008, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton raised more than $250 million in the course of her 18-month-long campaign. Although initially a crowded field, the top-tier candidates narrowed to Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama.

For comparison sake, this cycle, Clinton raised almost $30 million in the third quarter of 2015. In the 2008 race, during the same time frame, she raised close to what she collected this year — about $27.8 million in the third quarter of 2007.

#1. Romney for President Inc., 2012

Total Raised: $483,452,331

During his second run for the White House in 2012, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney collected almost half a billion dollars for his official campaign committee. Although the Republican didn’t unseat President Barack Obama, the two campaigns and the super PACs backing them combined to bring in $2 billion during the race.

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