Kathleen Matthews Credit: Aaron Kraut

She has not sought or held elected office before, and neither does she have the history of political involvement that can translate into ready support from local Democratic Party activists. Consequently, since she indicated four months ago that she planned to pursue the open 8th District congressional seat, former TV news anchor Kathleen Matthews’ perceived status as a top-tier contender has largely been grounded in her presumed ability to raise a lot of money.

This week’s round of campaign finance disclosure reports—the first to be filed since the field of candidates in the predominantly Democratic district has firmed up—offered tangible evidence of Matthews’ fundraising prowess. Not only did Matthews, a Chevy Chase resident, raise $500,000 in barely a month since formally announcing her candidacy; her disclosure report, filed with the Federal Election Commission, reads like a veritable who’s who of Washington insiders, drawn from the city’s business and legal communities as well as its political establishment.

The report underscores the capability of Matthews, a former Marriot International executive, and her husband, MSNBC commentator and talk show host Chris Matthews, to tap into their considerable network of influential contacts—and to get those contacts to open their wallets in a big way as the campaign moves forward.

Of the $500,000 raised by Matthews through June 30, about $75,000 came from other political committees. Matthews was an executive with Marriott International before launching her campaign, and about half of this $75,000 was drawn from political action committees with ties to the travel and tourism industry. Another $10,000 is from Off The Sidelines, a PAC started by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to encourage woman to seek elected office.

That left the bulk of Matthews’ contributions, $425,000, coming from individual donors. A look at donor patterns in her FEC disclosure statements shows about $275,000 of this—roughly two-thirds of all individual donations to her campaign—coming from just 95 contributors, all of whom donated the $2,700 per election maximum an individual donor can give to a candidate under federal law.  

In fact, several of Matthews’ biggest donors—notably Ted Leonsis of Potomac, owner of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, and New York hotelier Ian Schrager—not only gave the $2,700 maximum allowed in next April’s primary; they also chipped in another $2,700 apiece toward the November 2016 general election.

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These general election donations, totaling about $25,000, represent about 5 percent of Matthews’ total fundraising through June 30—but it is money she can’t use unless she wins the primary.

To be sure, state Sen. Jamie Raskin, another of the top-tier contenders for the Democratic nomination in District 8, has a similar issue. Raskin reported total fundraising of nearly $554,000, with $513,000 from individual donors in this week’s reports, and the balance from PACs and other political committees.

Raskin reported about 50 donors who “maxed out” at the $2,700 level, or about half the number of these high-dollar contributors as Matthews. His list also contains several well-known names—including Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and former state Sen. Stewart Bainum, a Chevy Chase resident who is heir to a hotel and nursing home empire—who donated the maximum allowed for both the primary and the general election.

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All told, Raskin’s fundraising total includes about $40,000 that he won’t be able to use unless he is the general election nominee.

In a statement Friday, Raskin claimed the total of 2,400 contributions he reported this week makes him “the most successful grassroots fundraiser of any non-incumbent Democrat running for Congress in America in this election cycle.” He went on to declare: “We’re a lot more interested in the people we engage than the money we raise. This campaign is about revitalizing popular democracy, and we are showing that it can be done.”

But the practical downside of relying heavily on smaller contributions—Raskin’s report indeed shows many more donors giving $250 and $500 amounts than Matthews—is that it involves more time and effort. It took Raskin from mid-April to the end of June to raise about $550,000, which is about two and half times as what it took Matthews to rake in $500,000.

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With insiders suggesting it will take at least $1 million—and perhaps as much as $3 million—to emerge as the winner of the Democratic primary in an expensive market for over-the-air advertising, the Raskin campaign—by focusing on smaller donors—could find itself scrambling to keep up with Matthews’ fundraising pace in the months until the April primary.

Raskin’s boast of “grassroots” fundraising may be an opening salvo in an effort to distinguish himself from Matthews, whose fundraising report at times reads like an alumni directory of high-ranking officials from the Clinton administration. The FEC report also showed that she drew upon a significant national network, with about one-third of her biggest donors located in major cities ranging from New York to the West Coast.

Among the list of those donating the maximum of $2,700 to Matthews: former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Thomas McLarty and his wife; former National Urban League President Vernon Jordan, a top D.C. attorney who is a close friend of the Clintons; former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, a Chevy Chase resident; and Gregory Craig, an aide in the Clinton White House who later became President Obama’s chief counsel. Also among the $2,700 donors to Matthews: Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

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Chris Matthews worked for the late House speaker, Thomas (Tip) O’Neill of Massachusetts, before going on to become a television personality, and Kathleen Matthews’ fundraising list includes two of the late speaker’s children, both Bethesda residents: Christopher O’Neill, an attorney, and Susan O’Neill, an events planner. Each gave $500.

The campaign committee of Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who owns a home in Chevy Chase, gave $2,000, as did the campaign committee of former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. Among other well-known former elected officials on Matthews’ list: former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who, along with his wife, donated $1,500; former Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, $1,500; and former Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, $1,000. Smith, a Bethesda resident, now heads the National Association of Broadcasters. Members of the Marriott family and former colleagues of Matthews at Marriott International donated a total of $35,000.

While Raskin’s wife, Sarah Bloom Raskin, is deputy Treasury secretary in the Obama administration, much of Raskin’s donations appear to be coming not from Obama administration officials but from the faculty of American University—where he is a professor of constitutional law—as well as other Washington, D.C., area universities.

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Raskin, who has been a leading voice on numerous social issues during his decade in the state Senate, also is drawing heavily from liberal advocacy groups and civil libertarians. Sarah Love, a Bethesda resident who is a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, gave the maximum of $2,700 for both the primary and general elections. So did Woody Kaplan of Boston, a former American Civil Liberties Union national board member who listed his occupation as “provocateur” on the FEC disclosure form.

While Raskin criticized the focus on fundraising as “unhealthy” in his statement Friday, this week’s FEC disclosure reports will likely help to establish an early pecking order among the candidates for Democratic activists in the district, which is centered in Montgomery County but also includes parts of Carroll and Frederick counties.

No Republicans have filed in the predominantly Democratic district. Besides Matthews and Raskin, three other Democratic candidates filed with the FEC prior to July 1 and reported their fundraising by the Wednesday midnight deadline:

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State Del. Kumar Barve of Gaithersburg reported raising $225,000, less than half of the take reported by either Matthews or Raskin, in the three-month period ending June 30. With $66,000 raised earlier in the year, Barve—who announced his candidacy in March—now has nearly $230,000 in his campaign treasury. (Matthews and Raskin each had about $480,000 on hand as of June 30.)

Barve, who would be only the fourth Indian-American ever elected to Congress, continues to rely heavily on fellow Indian-Americans locally and across the country for fundraising; about 60 percent of his latest list of contributors are Indian-American. Two well-known local businessmen, Bethesda-based developer Nathan Landow and auto dealer Jack Fitzgerald, each donated the $2,700 maximum to Barve. (Apparently hedging his bets, Fitzgerald also gave $2,700 to the Raskin campaign.)

Former Obama administration official Will Jawando of Silver Spring, who lost to a Raskin-organized slate as a candidate for delegate in District 20 last year, reported raising $112,000 and having $97,000 on hand as of June 30. As he did during his delegate race, where he finished just out of the running for a nomination, Jawando continues to draw on donations from former Obama administration colleagues. In addition, former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, now with a D.C.-based public affairs firm, donated the $2,700 maximum.

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Nearly 10 percent of Jawando’s contributions—about $11,000—comes from a series of real estate partnerships sharing the same office address in Rockville. In addition, one prominent figure in local real estate, Richard S. Cohen of Willco Residential, donated $2,700 for the primary and $2,700 for the general election—if Jawando’s underdog bid makes it past the primary.

State Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase raised just $36,000 since announcing her candidacy in early May, although she lent her campaign another $50,000. Gutierrez has never raised much money in her campaigns for delegate. And although she insisted in announcing for Congress that she will be able to tap into a national Hispanic-American fundraising network, her contributions so far—while largely from Latinos—are concentrated in Montgomery County and the greater Washington area.

Another announced candidate for the Democratic nomination, former County Council member Valerie Ervin, did not file with the FEC until July 1, and does not have to report her initial fundraising until mid-October. Former District 18 delegate candidate Elizabeth Matory has indicated her intent to run, but has yet to formally announce her candidacy or file with the FEC.

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