Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Members Question: Is Shutdown Fundraising Worth It?

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Hagan, a top 2014 target of Republicans, was caught on camera going into the National Association of Realtors this week to raise money.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, said in a Tuesday evening interview with CQ Roll Call that there is a sense in her conference that it’s not a good idea to host fundraisers during the shutdown.

Nonetheless, Democrats caught several top GOP Senate candidates attending an Oct. 3 event for American Crossroads. Video footage showed former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, North Carolina state Speaker Thom Tillis, plus Reps. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Steve Daines of Montana at the House of Sweden event.

Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said the event was not a fundraiser. An invitation billed it as “an opportunity for supporters ... to hear from party leaders, policy experts, rising stars, and the top 2014 Senate candidates.”

Former Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia, is a veteran of the last round of shutdowns in the mid-1990s. He argued that the pain of fundraising will only be temporary for members.

“My experience is that it’s bad optics today, but long term I don’t think it makes a bit of a difference,” said Davis, a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman.

Still, some staffers concede their bosses are continuing to fundraise quietly. With Congress in session over the weekends, many members can’t go home. As a result, they have blocks of unscheduled time on their hands — an unusual situation for members while they’re in Washington.

Typically, congressional staff are trained to spot such windows of free time and schedule call time for the boss. But even phone time has proven less fruitful. Members are burned out from the fundraising push at the end of the second quarter. More to the point, donors don’t want to hear their telephone pleas anyway.

Instead, aides say members are forced to use newfound free time for “donor maintenance” — offering thanks for previous donations.

Meanwhile, lobbyist and political action committee fundraisers are dumbfounded by their newly empty schedules.

Postponing an event isn’t an easy decision for a cash-strapped campaign. Without enough notice, caterers will charge for food. But campaigns are reluctant to cancel some fundraisers in hopes the shutdown will end soon.

The fundraising setback will show in the fourth quarter’s bottom line. The holiday season already makes October, November and December the most difficult months for members to raise money.

What’s more, the impasse over government funding and the debate over raising the debt ceiling show no signs of ending soon.

The reality of the calender prompted one lobbyist to wonder if it will soon no longer be taboo for members to fundraise during the crisis.

“At some point, does it become OK to go back and do this stuff?” a Democratic lobbyist asked. “I suspect not for a little while.”

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