WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid's first campaign for Congress in 1982 cost just more than $500,000. To win re-election this year, the Nevada Democrat plans to spend between $20 million and $25 million.
In between, during an almost 30-year career in Congress, Reid has collected more than $42 million in political donations and has needed to spend most of it, according to a study released Monday.
Reid, a Democrat and the Senate majority leader, counts organized labor groups among the steadiest financial supporters over his career, with political action committees for Las Vegas gaming companies MGM Mirage and Harrah's Entertainment Inc., the American Banking Association and the American Association of Justice, the professional organization of trial lawyers.
His largest donor is AT&T, whose $133,650 in contributions include money from the PACs of subsidiaries such as Bell South and Cingular, according to the report issued by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative reporting organization.
Reid had no comment Monday on the report, the first in a series that the center said will detail career fundraising of Senate and House leaders.
Josh Israel, one of the authors, said Reid's career haul is "a lot" and more than most senators because of his long career, his history of close elections and his rise to the top of the Senate leadership.
"With his re-elections never coming easy, he needed the money, so he has raised it," Israel said.
"With 2004 being an exception, in 1998, he had 48 percent (of the vote). In 1992, he had 51 percent. In 1986, he had 50 percent," he said. "This is a guy who needs every cent he can to ensure his own re-election, and it certainly appears he is going to have a similar need this time around."
About $10 million of Reid's career donations have come in preparation for his current race, Israel estimated. The report covers Reid's first House race in 1982 through 2009.
Reid's fundraising is not the most. The Center for Public Integrity will release a report showing Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader from Kentucky, has raised $47 million since 1985, Israel said. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has raised $72 million since 1989, according to separate figures calculated by the Center for Responsive Politics.
But an upcoming Center for Public Integrity report will show Reid has more than doubled the career fundraising of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Israel said. She entered Congress in 1987.
The Nevadan had a second motivation to raise funds, experts said. As he made his way up the ladder of the Senate leadership, Reid was a generous donor to fellow Democrats as a way to win friends and keep allies.
"That both has ensured their loyalty and appreciation and guaranteed his place as Democratic leader," Israel said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.