Several months after their elections, freshman House Republicans will get a rude awakening to the realities of Congressional campaigns: It’s time to pay your dues.
The National Republican Congressional Committee is kicking off its official dues drive Wednesday morning at the Capitol Hill Club, where the newly dubbed “Dues Brothers,” Reps. Tom Cole (Okla.) and Kevin Brady (Texas), will formally begin hitting up the GOP caucus for campaign funds for the 2012 cycle.
House GOP leadership has traditionally pushed its colleagues to pay their dues to the NRCC in the odd-numbered years — as well as repeatedly during the rest of the cycle. But with a particularly large freshman class, the NRCC is embarking on a whole new venture to get many of the newbies they just helped elect to give back to the committee.
“I think [freshmen are] absolutely critical. They’re a third of our class. Quite a few of them got help from the NRCC to get here,” Cole, a former NRCC chairman, told Roll Call. “A number of these freshmen have never had to do anything like this before, so getting them involved is really critical.”
Cole said he and Brady have set a goal of raising $8 million from Members this year — $2.8 million of which has already been brought in from GOP Members through transfers or fundraising, according to the NRCC’s internal calculations.
To help with its fundraising task, House GOP leadership has assembled a team of 15 freshmen to corral their colleagues into paying their dues: Reps. Diane Black (Tenn.), Chuck Fleischmann (Tenn.), Frank Guinta (N.H.), Rich Nugent (Fla.), Ben Quayle (Ariz.), Todd Rokita (Ind.), David Schweikert (Ariz.), Kevin Yoder (Kan.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Tim Griffin (Ark.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Alan Nunnelee (Miss.), Mike Pompeo (Kan.), Tom Reed (N.Y.) and Allen West (Fla.).
Many of the freshmen on the dues whipping team were supported by the NRCC early last cycle, quickly achieving the NRCC’s seal of approval as Young Guns candidates. The team will be charged with pumping funds from their freshman colleagues, some of whom did not benefit from the NRCC’s targeted spending last cycle and might be less inclined to give their hard-earned cash to the committee.
“We’ve had a lot of great people that we’re assigned to, people that I haven’t had a chance to get to know that well,” Gardner said. “Obviously everybody has a lot of work to do for their own efforts, but recognize the fact that when we advance in 2012, we’ll have an even greater ability to strengthen our economy.”
Freshman dues are based mostly on whether the Member holds a plum committee post — a new situation for Republicans given the unprecedented number of freshmen with top assignments. Cole said the freshmen on “A” committees are expected to transfer or raise almost twice as much for the NRCC as their colleagues.
Dues collection is dreaded by some House Members, many of whom have to fundraise millions for their own tough campaigns each cycle but nonetheless are persistently nudged by their colleagues to help pay for other races.
Cole said about 30 Members have already paid their off-cycle dues in full, including many Members on the dues whip team.
West, a prolific fundraiser in his own campaign, paid all of his dues before today’s push, according to an NRCC aide. But even he could not withhold his disdain for the process. “That’s the part of this thing I don’t really care for,” he said of fundraising, describing it as “the mother’s milk” of winning elections.
West nonetheless told Roll Call that he distributed his first dues letter to colleagues last week. “I see it as me encouraging people, not being a drill sergeant,” he said.
The 30 members of the dues whip team — composed of 15 freshmen and 15 more senior Members — are charged with collecting money from five to eight of their colleagues. If a Member isn’t persuaded, he will have to answer to Republicans higher up the House leadership ladder until he agrees to pay.
“Just pay up front,” Cole warned. “You really don’t want to be in front of John Boehner explaining why you can’t do what 100-plus other people are doing.”
The senior members of the official NRCC dues whip team are Reps. Geoff Davis (Ky.), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Randy Neugebauer (Texas), Devin Nunes (Calif.), Erik Paulsen (Minn.), Lamar Smith (Texas), Spencer Bachus (Ala.), Ken Calvert (Calif.), Buck McKeon (Calif.), Candice Miller (Mich.), Mike Rogers (Mich.), Tom Rooney (Fla.) and Bill Shuster (Pa.).
Brady and Cole were tasked with leading the dues drive last cycle.
“Members are the NRCC’s biggest donors and fundraisers, and it’s important for every Republican Member to have skin in the game to strengthen the Republican majority,” NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) said.
Steve Peoples contributed to this report.