The top 10 Senate self-funders so far

Candidates already put $27.9 million of their own money into campaigns

Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard, here being introduced by Alabama Sen. Doug Jones at her 2018 confirmation hearing, loaned her Senate campaign $5.1 million through Sept. 30.  (Office of Sen. Doug Jones (archived))
Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard, here being introduced by Alabama Sen. Doug Jones at her 2018 confirmation hearing, loaned her Senate campaign $5.1 million through Sept. 30. (Office of Sen. Doug Jones (archived))
Posted November 3, 2021 at 5:30am

Corrected Nov. 4 | Competitive Senate races and a handful of open seats have attracted crowded primary fields this election cycle, including more wealthy candidates who are willing to put their own money into their campaigns. 

Some wealthy hopefuls are investing millions into their campaigns as they seek to boost their name recognition and set themselves apart from their opponents. Ten Senate candidates have invested a combined $29.7 million of their own money as of Sept. 30, according to fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission last month. 

There are no limits on how much of their own money candidates can contribute or loan to their campaigns, according to FEC guidelines. Most self-funding occurs when candidates make loans to their campaigns, which can eventually be repaid using campaign contributions from other individuals and groups. 

Candidates’ personal financial disclosure reports, which are filed with the Senate Ethics Committee, provide clues about just how much money these candidates have to spend on their campaigns. The reports don’t provide a complete picture because assets and liabilities are reported in ranges, and some assets, such as the candidate’s home, may not be included. Calculating the difference between the minimum value of a candidate’s assets and the minimum value of his or her liabilities can at least shed light on the candidate’s minimum net worth. 

[Senate candidates tap their own wealth for edge in primaries]

Here are the 10 candidates who had invested the largest amounts of their own money in their races through Sept. 30, and whose net worths range from $4 million and $99 million: 

1. Mike Gibbons

The Ohio Republican is an investment banker who has been known to spend his own money on his political ambitions. He put $2.7 million of his own funds into his unsuccessful campaign for the GOP nomination for Senate in 2018 to take on Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. But he’s more than doubled down on his current run to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Through Sept. 30, Gibbons had loaned his campaign $7.9 million. The source of Gibbons’ wealth is less clear because he has not yet filed a financial disclosure report. Gibbons’ lawyer wrote in a letter to the Senate Ethics Committee on Oct. 26 that Gibbons’ filing was delayed “due to his unusually complex finances” and estimated that the report would be filed by Nov. 1, but it was not filed as of Tuesday evening.

2. Lynda Blanchard

Blanchard loaned her campaign a whopping $5.1 million early on in her bid for the GOP nomination in Alabama to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby. Blanchard, whose minimum net worth is at least $4 million, co-founded a successful real estate management company, and much of her wealth is in mutual funds. She served as Donald Trump’s ambassador to Slovenia, but the former president is backing her primary rival, GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, in the Senate race. Blanchard has said she is considering running for governor instead, but it’s not clear if she has made a decision. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

3. Jim Lamon

Lamon founded the solar energy company DEPCOM Power, which he has touted in his campaign for the GOP nomination to take on Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Lamon has loaned his campaign $5 million, which accounts for 93 percent of his campaign’s fundraising so far. His minimum net worth is at least $8.5 million, with $5 million worth of assets in real estate, including a 200-acre ranch in Utah and a home in California. 

4. Carla Sands

Sands, who served as ambassador to Denmark in the Trump administration, hasn’t been deterred by Trump endorsing Army veteran Sean Parnell in the GOP primary for the seat Republican Patrick J. Toomey is vacating. So far, Sands has loaned her campaign $3.1 million. Her wealth reportedly stems from her late husband’s company, Vintage Capital, which Sands took over after his death, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Sands has not yet filed her financial disclosure report, which was due Oct. 30. According to Senate Ethics Committee guidelines, she has 30 days after the deadline to file her report before facing a $200 fine.

5. Bernie Moreno

Moreno, who is also running for the Republican Senate nod in Ohio, has loaned his campaign $3 million. He was known for his car dealerships but most recently chaired a technology company. Moreno’s financial disclosure showed a minimum net worth of at least $6.9 million. He reported more than $10 million in assets in commercial and residential real estate. All of the commercial real estate assets are listed as properties in Ohio, but the residential properties include a house in Columbus, Ohio, as well as homes in the Bahamas and Florida and condos in the District of Columbia and New York City. He also reported at least $5 million in stock in his car dealership, M Motors Group, Inc.

6. Jane Timken

Timken, a former chair of the Ohio GOP, loaned her Senate campaign $2 million, and she owns assets with a minimum worth of at least $2 million, including a 699-acre farm in Canton, Ohio. The report showed that her husband’s assets are worth at least $34.7 million, mainly in corporate securities. But those millions cannot be spent on Timken’s campaign, according to FEC guidelines. A candidate can only use assets that are held by that candidate, or jointly held, to fund his or her campaign. 

7. Jeff Bartos

Bartos is also seeking the Senate GOP nomination in Pennsylvania. A real estate developer who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, Bartos has loaned his Senate campaign $1.2 million. His minimum net worth is at least $7.5 million, with nearly $1.5 million worth of assets due to his ownership of a handful of companies. His real estate development company, JBCB Brewerytown, is worth at least $1 million.

8. Sarah Godlewski

During the last fundraising quarter, which spanned from July through September, Godlewski donated $315,000 to her Senate campaign and loaned it an additional $685,000. The Wisconsin state treasurer is a top candidate in the crowded Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Ron Johnson. Godlewski’s minimum net worth is at least $21.3 million, but that includes $8.5 million in assets held just by her husband, which cannot be spent on her campaign. Godlewski holds at least $3.6 million in assets herself, mostly in stocks in companies focused on a range of issues, including sustainable farming and renewable energy. 

9. Alex Lasry

Lasry, who is also running for the Democratic nomination in Wisconsin, appears to be the wealthiest Senate candidate, with a minimum net worth of $99 million. His father co-owns the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team, for whom Lasry has worked as an executive. Most of his wealth comes from a $50.5 million stake in the Bucks, but he also lists at least $20 million in assets in commercial buildings in Los Angeles. Lasry has loaned his campaign $800,000 so far. 

10. Val Arkoosh 

Arkoosh, who currently chairs the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, is the lone major female candidate seeking the Democratic Senate nod in Pennsylvania. In the last fundraising quarter, she loaned her campaign $500,000. Arkoosh has been known to spend her own funds before, loaning $744,000 to her unsuccessful campaign for the House in 2014. Arkoosh, an anesthesiologist who worked in academic medicine before running for office, has a minimum net worth of at least $11.2 million. A majority of her assets — $6.5 million — are investments in mutual funds.

This report was corrected to reflect the filing of disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.