- The Washington Times
Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar may be the most controversial freshman Democrat right now. And it’s apparently paying off in fundraising, as she reported collecting more than $832,000 for her campaign over the first three months of the year.

That put her ahead of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who collected about $700,000, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the third prominent liberal freshman, who took in about $315,000.

It even put her ahead of the campaign hauls for Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Cheri Bustos.

Daniel Weiner, senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said being in the spotlight and facing barbs from President Trump has helped Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Omar.

“If someone you support and agree with is constantly being attacked, one of your ways of dealing with your anger about that is to go on to her website and make a donation,” Mr. Weiner said. “For any politician, being the subject of Donald Trump’s tweets probably is a great fundraising tool. I don’t think they’re exactly quaking in their boots.”

None of the three freshmen is in danger of losing her seat in a general election. Ms. Omar had the closest election of the trio last year — and she won with 78% of the vote.

Still, the cash could be a reminder to fellow Democrats not to bother attempting a primary challenge.

Alex Baumgart, an individual contributions researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, said the fundraising numbers for Ms. Omar and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tell the story of the Democratic Party.

“It’s a general illustration of where the progressive end of the party is right now and how much fundraising attention has been garnered to them,” he said.

He pointed to Rep. Ro Khanna, another member of the progressive caucus who hasn’t been a target of the president, but has raked in more than $600,000 so far.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Omar both have leadership political action committees they have used in the past, but they did not report any significant fundraising action for them so far in 2019.

The reports for the first quarter of the year were due to the Federal Election Commission on Monday.

According to the reports, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains the party’s champion, raising more than $4.6 million with her leadership PAC and election fund combined. At this point last cycle, she had brought in only about $500,000.

House Majority Whip Steny H. Hoyer brought in close to $900,000 when combining funds from his reelection campaign and leadership PAC.

Mr. Baumgart said Democrats overall have seen an increase this cycle, with several candidates bringing in more money than they did at this early stage than they did before.

“It is important to kind of keep that in perspective — that this could change at any moment, but I think this is a reasonable indication of the direction that we’re heading in at this point,” he said.

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