Berkley loans her campaign $250,000 in tight Senate race

WASHINGTON - Rep. Shelley Berkley loaned her campaign $250,000 in the homestretch of a heated U.S. Senate race, the first time either Nevada candidate has needed to tap personal funds.

Berkley made the transactions in early and mid-October, including borrowing $50,000 from a retirement fund to send the money to her campaign, according to federal reports through Oct. 17.

After spending $10.3 million over the past 18 months, the Democrat counted $445,000 in her election fund as the race entered its final three weeks.

Berkley also reported a $24,581 campaign debt to American Express.

Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller had $1.2 million cash on hand heading into the final weeks of his $7.6 million campaign. He reported no loans or outstanding debt.

Heller also has benefited from a surge of recent donations into his campaign. Federal reports detail $165,751 in late October contributions, including $78,776 from industry and Republican political action committees.

A Berkley spokeswoman maintained the loans were not a sign of financial distress. In recent days, the congresswoman has added at least $96,400 in late contributions, Federal Election Commission records show.

"This race will be extremely close, and this ensured the campaign has necessary funds to give voters the clear choice in this election," Xochitl Hinojosa said.

Berkley is one of the wealthier members of Congress. She and her husband, Las Vegas nephrologist Dr. Larry Lehrner, hold net assets worth an estimated $9.17 million, according to Roll Call.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.