Leaders Have Packed Fundraising Schedules

Posted May 23, 2007 at 6:38pm

House leaders are hitting the road over the Memorial Day recess in search of campaign cash, with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) set to appear in five districts represented by freshman Democrats and Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) focusing on bucking up Republicans in his home state.

Hoyer is packing his bags for the Southwest and upstate New York, with fundraisers scheduled with Democratic Reps. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Harry Mitchell (Ariz.), Ciro Rodriguez (Texas), John Hall (N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).

These five Members share not only freshman status but also the fact that in 2006 they ousted incumbent Republicans in GOP-leaning districts — although Rodriguez had served in the House before being ousted in a 2004 Democratic primary.

“Majority Leader Hoyer is focused on maintaining a Democratic majority, and showing his support for freshmen early in their terms is an important part of that,” spokeswoman Stacey Farnen Bernards said Wednesday.

Boehner next week will be traveling throughout Ohio, where Democrats are preparing to make another run at GOP incumbents they failed to oust in 2006. On the Minority Leader’s schedule is a fundraiser in Columbus for Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R) as well as similar events for GOP Members in other parts of the state.

Boehner also is reserving some time to spend in his own district, which re-elected him last year with 64 percent of the vote.

Since January, Hoyer has visited six districts, focusing on raising money for Democratic freshmen representing competitive districts.

Among the Majority Leader’s beneficiaries have been Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), who, like Rodriguez, previously had served in the House before being ousted in 2004, as well as Democratic Reps. Paul Hodes (N.H.), Patrick Murphy (Pa.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Joe Sestak (Pa.) and John Yarmuth (Ky.).

During the same period, Boehner traveled to twice as many districts, racking up frequent-flier miles as he crisscrossed the country for a combination of entrenched and vulnerable Republican Members, while also visiting Scottsdale, Ariz., and Jupiter, Fla., for the National Republican Congressional Committee winter meeting and the Republican Main Street Partnership conference, respectively.

Coffers filled courtesy of the Minority Leader include those belonging to Republican Reps. Mary Bono (Calif.), Ken Calvert (Calif.), Eric Cantor (Va.), Steve Chabot (Ohio), Luis Fortuño (P.R.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Steven LaTourette (Ohio), Connie Mack IV (Fla.), Sue Myrick (N.C.), Jon Porter (Nev.), Rick Renzi (Ariz.) and Ed Royce (Calif.).

Boehner spokesman Brian Kennedy said the Minority Leader’s extensive travel schedule is designed with one thing in mind: retaking the majority.

“Boehner wouldn’t have taken the job if he wasn’t committed to putting everything he has into it as we work to earn back the majority in 2008,” Kennedy said. “I think that’s reflected clearly in his schedule.”

According to figures provided by the Minority Leader’s office, Boehner, in addition to his in-district events, has headlined 14 Washington, D.C., fundraisers for Republican Members since January, as well as a similar event for the nine vulnerable GOP lawmakers participating in the Regain Our Majority Program.

Boehner’s political schedule doesn’t look to get any lighter this summer.

Between now and the August recess, he is scheduled to headline 15 fundraisers, both in Washington and in various districts, with another 19 events planned for the August recess itself. Boehner is set to be on the road for the entire month of August raising money for his colleagues.

Hoyer’s office declined to provide similar information regarding the Majority Leader’s upcoming schedule.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) does not appear to have fundraising on her Memorial Day recess agenda, as she is scheduled to travel to Greenland and Europe on a Congressional delegation trip focused on global warming and the environment. As far as her political travel since she assumed the Speaker’s gavel in January, her office did not respond to repeated requests for that information.

However, a Democratic operative with some knowledge of Pelosi’s political activities said the Speaker — known for being a prolific fundraiser — has visited at least nine states and 17 cities since the beginning of the year, including Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix and Seattle.

Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who served as Speaker for eight years until Democrats took control of Congress in January, kept a packed travel schedule, visiting an average of 200 districts per cycle during his tenure, usually broken down to include trips into 75 districts in the first year of a cycle and 125 districts in the second year.

Under Hastert, priority was given to vulnerable incumbents and Republicans waging challenges in Democratic districts. Where the former Speaker traveled also was governed in part by which Members requested his help, according to a former House GOP leadership aide.

This Republican speculated that Hoyer would shoulder more of that burden now that Democrats hold the gavel, because, this individual said, Pelosi is simply viewed as too liberal in certain parts of the country to be invited into as many districts as Hastert was.

This former House GOP leadership aide said dropping high-ranking Members of leadership into a district holds value beyond the campaign contributions such visits attract.

“When that person comes to a district, it gives you clout that you’re a player and that you’re valued by the party,” this individual said. “It legitimizes you to your constituents.”