Rep. Devin Nunes’ Democratic opponent is raising big money off of news about the incumbent’s lawsuits against media organizations and his online critics.
The Fresno Democrat, Phil Arballo, hauled in $65,000 in the three days after a Virginia judge last month ruled against Nunes in the Republican’s lawsuit against Twitter, finding that Nunes could not sue the social media company for negligence over remarks by anonymous people who mock him.
It was a notable haul for Arballo, a first-time candidate who said he raised about $830,000 from April to June this year in his bid to unseat Nunes. Arballo has rasied more than $1.5 million this year.
“I’m the Democrat running against Devin Nunes,” Arballo wrote on a social media post after the Twitter ruling. “Devin losing in court (is) good, us beating him in Nov is even better.”
Arballo remains the underdog against Nunes in the 22nd Congressional District. Nunes, has served in Congress since 2003 and allied himself closely to President Donald Trump.
He has raised far more money than Arballo, but represents a tantalizing target for Democrats because of Nunes’ high profile defense of Trump at last fall’s impeachment hearings and earlier during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Nunes brought in $3.9 million in the first three months of the year, when Arballo raised $700,000. Nunes’ office did not respond to a request by McClatchy for his fundraising numbers for the second quarter of 2020. Those numbers are due to the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.
Nunes has won reelection by double digits in every contest except 2018, when his national profile as Trump ally helped Democratic challenger Andrew Janz raise $9 million. Nunes raised $12 million, and won by 5 percentage points.
So far, Arballo has raised about $2.6 million in the 2020 election cycle. Nunes has raised at least $11.6 million.
After the 2018 election, Nunes filed a cluster of lawsuits against media organizations, online critics and Democratic activists alleging they conspired to defame him.
McClatchy, the parent company of The Fresno Bee, is among the organizations he’s suing. McClatchy has called the lawsuit a “baseless attack on local journalism” and is fighting it in a Virginia court.
Nunes’ other targets include CNN, The Washington Post, the investigative research firm that produced the so-called Steele Dossier of intelligence tips regarding Trump, Hearst Magazines, Twitter and the anonymous authors of two Twitter accounts that make fun of the congressman.
Like Arballo, Nunes has reported significant fundraising hauls after milestones in his lawsuits. His top fundraising days in the first three months of this year came just after he announced he planned to sue The Washington Post, according to FEC reports.
Arballo says Nunes’ “partisanship” and “frivolous lawsuits” will help the Democrat’s campaign this fall.