In her attempt to win the House Republican Conference chairmanship for next Congress, Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers is working to prove that she is a prolific campaigner, fundraiser and donor.
Countless Republican Members are stumping for presidential nominee Mitt Romney and for their peers’ re-election efforts this year, but the few Members running to become part of elected leadership are also on the campaign trail for themselves.
Though they would never say so publicly, this campaign within the campaign is just as important for their leadership ambitions. The aim: to prove to leadership and their peers that they are a more prolific campaigner, fundraiser and donor, and therefore more worthy of being a party leader.
The most high-profile example of Members trying to make their case with dollar signs is the race between House Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.). Both are vying for the Conference chairmanship to replace outgoing Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas).
The fundraising totals are neck and neck. Both have brought in massive amounts of money, with each leadership hopeful netting more than $2 million in contributions to their campaign and leadership PACs combined so far this cycle, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records.
In the most recent quarter, both brought in more than $400,000 to their combined fundraising operation.
But when it comes to contributions to other candidates, there is a marked difference.
Notably, Price gave a staggering $204,000 in direct contributions to the National Republican Congressional Committee in August from his campaign coffers. He also donated $25,000 in the past quarter to the Freshman Hold ’Em PAC, a group organized by freshman Members to re-elect their own.
In addition to those two donations, Price donated more than $150,000 directly to Congressional candidates in the third quarter. Price’s office declined to comment on his political activities.
McMorris Rodgers donated half of that total, more than $65,000, last quarter directly to Congressional candidates from her CMR PAC and did not make a direct contribution to the NRCC.
Interestingly, much of the money raised by her own campaign was spent on advertising in her district, where she faces a challenge from a modestly funded Democrat, film producer Rich Cowan.
Though McMorris Rodgers is expected to win, Cowan is attacking her for her leadership bid, saying at a recent debate between the two: “She’s running to lead the Republican caucus, the most partisan position in Congress. I don’t see that as a bipartisan situation.”
While McMorris Rodgers did not make a direct contribution to the NRCC this quarter, a GOP leadership aide familiar with her fundraising activity noted that she has met her NRCC assessment and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the committee by asking outside donors to give on her behalf.
It is a common practice, another GOP aide said, although it makes the totals hard to quantify for outsiders.
“You could fly into Denver and raise $500,000 for the NRCC and not a penny of it comes from your campaign account, but that goes toward your assessment,” the aide said.
Indeed, McMorris Rodgers has been stumping for Romney and traveling on behalf of GOP candidates all across the country, most recently in the Midwest.
Price does not have a formidable Democratic challenger in his district, which is even more Republican-friendly than McMorris Rodgers’. He has been active on the campaign trail as well, messaging for the GOP on health care matters and stumping for candidates, most recently in Georgia and North Carolina.
The endorsement chase is still on, as another committee chairman — Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (Mich.) — has sided with McMorris Rodgers in the race.
Meanwhile, candidates running for the lower-tier leadership slots are racking up money to bolster their leadership ambitions as well.
Two newly created leadership PACs are aiding candidates. In the past quarter, Rep. Martha Roby (Ala.), who is running for Conference vice chairwoman, founded MARTHA PAC, and Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), who is looking to be Conference secretary, started FOXX PAC.
Both candidates, however, are being outraised by their challengers. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) has almost doubled Roby’s haul, with more than $1.9 million to Roby’s roughly $1 million during the cycle.
Jenkins has also donated more than $100,000 directly to the NRCC and $43,000 to candidates in the past quarter, while Roby donated more than $30,000 to the NRCC and less than $2,000 to candidates.
“Congresswoman Jenkins is lending her unwavering support to maintain a Republican majority in the House. These efforts would continue regardless of a leadership race,” said her spokeswoman, Annie Dwyer.
Most of Roby’s donations have come since the last reporting deadline of Sept. 30, said her spokesman, Todd Stacy.
“Martha is helping Members in re-election and helping those running for office for the first time in order to retain and hopefully grow the majority, not to gain a leadership post,” he said.
In the three-way race for secretary, Foxx and Rep. Gregg Harper (Miss.) have raised less than $1 million in this cycle, while Rep. Jeff Denham has gathered more than $2 million, although some of that may have to do with the fact that he is in a competitive race in his California district.