JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sen. Claire McCaskill is investing in fundraising and campaign management more than a year before voters will decide whether to keep her in office.
McCaskill in 2018 likely will face Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is favored among some big-name Missouri Republicans to take on the Democratic incumbent.
As she gears up for the race, McCaskill's campaign spending offers a glimpse at some of the groundwork she's laying, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. That includes raising millions of dollars while getting rid of any donations that could come back to haunt her, hiring seasoned consultants and building a campaign team.
McCaskill's said at private donor events this year that she plans on raising and spending at least $30 million, the newspaper reported. As of June, she had raised close to $8 million.
To continue bringing in money, McCaskill so far appears to be relying heavily on ActBlue, a Democratic fundraising platform, although she's also held fundraisers across the U.S. and paid more than $100,000 for political fundraising lists. She's spent about $84,000 on credit-card transaction fees to ActBlue.
But McCaskill is ditching money that could be used by Republican opponents as fodder against her.
Her campaign confirmed she is not keeping a combined $3,700 from actress Rosie O'Donnell, who's feuded with President Donald Trump. McCaskill instead donated the same amount to a Kansas City domestic violence shelter.
McCaskill also gave back a $2,700 contribution from pharmaceutical company Pfizer's political action committee and $500 from the PAC for Navient, which deals with student-loan debt. The senator has said she wouldn't accept donations from opioid makers, such as Pfizer, and has called student-loan debt "a burden on all Missourians." Keeping the money would have opened McCaskill up to criticism.
"To avoid even the appearance of anything that would intersect with Claire's investigation into opioid manufacturers, the campaign instituted a policy of returning any donations from pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids," McCaskill campaign Finance Director Erika Brees said.
Brees said McCaskill returned the Navient donation "following allegations that Navient defrauded student loan borrowers, and given that Claire joined a Congressional investigation into the Department of Education's relationship with Navient in 2014."
The senator also hired polling and strategic advice group Kiley & Co. and veteran consultant Anne Lewis, who is known for helping Democrats with communications and fundraising.
McCaskill was paying at least nine staffers as of June.