GOP Targets Member Giving

Posted June 13, 2008 at 6:21pm

House GOP leaders are privately grumbling about the level of fundraising and donating by some committees’ ranking members, suggesting that would-be chairmen should be steering more money to the party’s effort to retake the majority.

Member fundraising in general was discussed Thursday at a meeting of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s advisory panel — the newly formed group spearheaded by Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) to aid the NRCC administration. Master fundraising lists showing Member giving and fundraising in 2007 and 2008 were distributed to participants at the meeting and obtained by Roll Call.

The lists show that 43 Republicans have yet to contribute or raise any amount of money for the NRCC so far this year. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.) stands out as the lone ranking member who hasn’t raised or contributed one cent to the committee this cycle.

Sensenbrenner, the ranking member on the Energy Independence and Global Warming panel, has given money to the NRCC in the past, and his chief of staff explained that he will likely do so again, after his September primary is behind him.

“The NRCC’s made it quite clear that they’re not going to get involved in the primaries,” Tom Schreibel said. “Once Mr. Sensenbrenner is done with the primaries, I’m sure Mr. Sensenbrenner will go back to being an active member of the NRCC.”

While the 15-term Wisconsin lawmaker is not viewed as being in danger of losing his seat, Schreibel said if he were to get into trouble, Sensenbrenner would rather “have his money sitting in his own campaign account rather than over at the NRCC and having to beg to get it back.”

Behind Sensenbrenner, Reps. Steve Buyer (Ind.), Tom Davis (Va.), Vernon Ehlers (Mich.), Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Peter King (N.Y.) rank at the bottom of the list. Those five ranking members each have raised and given a combined total of less than $100,000 this cycle. Hunter and Davis are retiring this year.

Davis, a former NRCC head who was tapped to chair the advisory panel, continues to be involved in committee strategy and leadership despite donating only $50,000 to the NRCC.

He said he has raised money for the party not reflected in his NRCC tally totals and will do more events this fall. He has an upcoming fundraiser for Rep. Thelma Drake (Va.) and has written the contributors whose general election donations he has to return because he’s not seeking re-election and asked them to donate that money to the NRCC.

Davis also poured a significant amount of money into the state legislative races in Virginia last fall — much of that money went to support his wife’s unsuccessful state Senate re-election campaign.

“I’ll get my number up at the end of the day, so I’m not worried about it,” he said.

Buyer, the ranking member on Veterans’ Affairs, paid $25,000 in dues to the committee last year and also gave $3,500 toward his $100,000 goal for the 2007 President’s Dinner fundraiser. However, Buyer has not contributed or raised any money for the NRCC this year.

Buyer Chief of Staff Mike Copher said his boss traditionally waits to give until later in the cycle, when money is most needed.

“I would expect him to participate,” Copher said. “He normally participates, but it’s usually not until later in the summer or early fall,”

Natural Resources ranking member Don Young (Alaska) has also brought in just less than $100,000 for the NRCC, but he is facing a competitive primary challenge and general election, in addition to being under federal investigation.

Asked what he thought of ranking member fundraising for the NRCC, Boehner said he expects he will be talking to Members about their participation in the near future — after he looks over the fundraising totals.

“I haven’t seen the numbers,” Boehner said, adding that he would soon.

Privately, the grumbling is especially focused on some of the ranking members of A-list committees — perches from which it should be easier to raise big bucks for the party.

Specifically, Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton (Texas) and Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (Calif.) have given and raised $358,750 and $373,500, respectively, for the NRCC this cycle. Both men have brought in less than $100,000 so far this year.

To put that in perspective, Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith (Texas) and Education and Labor ranking member Howard McKeon (Calif.) have brought in more than $400,000 each to the NRCC this cycle.

As of April 30, Barton has more than $1.8 million in his campaign account while Lewis had almost $850,000. Lewis has also had to pay legal fees stemming from an investigation into earmarks he secured for clients of former Rep. and current lobbyist Bill Lowery (R-Calif.).

To be sure, every cycle Members on both sides of the aisle lament the never-ending fundraising pressures and that party committees and leaders always want them to do more. That feeling is more prevalent in the minority, where it’s harder to raise money.

“If you give, they always call you back and want you to give more,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus (Ala.), the top Republican on the Financial Services panel who has brought in more than $500,000 to help the NRCC.

The fundraising leaders among ranking members are Reps. David Dreier (Calif.) and Jim McCrery (La.), who is retiring this year.

Dreier, the ranking Republican on the Rules panel and a top party fundraiser, has raised and contributed $824,000 to the NRCC this cycle.

He said there is nothing unusual about leadership wanting Members to step up their involvement.

“We always want to encourage greater Member participation,” Dreier said. “There’s always encouragement that Members should participate to help the team.”

While McCrery’s NRCC total stands at $700,000, his departure from the committee has led to increased fundraising from the Members who are jockeying to succeed him.

Rep. Dave Camp (Mich.) has done $691,000 for the NRCC and Rep. Wally Herger (Calif.) has brought in $395,500.

Meanwhile, the fundraising lists also reflect the level of participation by members of leadership and reveals which rank-and-file Members have done nothing, or very little, this cycle to aid the NRCC.

Among leadership, Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) appears to be the least active participant in the party’s fundraising activities. McCotter pledged and then paid just $2,500 toward his $100,000 goal for the March NRCC dinner. Last year, he contributed $6,000 to the committee.

Retiring Members collectively hold millions in their campaign accounts, money that Republican leaders covet. The lists show that many of those departing Members are holding onto their cash for now and not diverting it to the NRCC’s efforts.

All total, 43 Republicans have not contributed or raised anything for the NRCC this year — 11 of those are retiring Members.

Among the Members holding the biggest war chest are Reps. Terry Everett (Ala.) and Jim Ramstad (Minn.).

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) has the distinction of being among the rank-and-file Republicans who have done the least in terms of fundraising and giving to the NRCC. He’s given a total of $1,000 for the cycle.

Also in that group are Reps. Randy Forbes (Va.), $5,000; Trent Franks (Ariz.) $7,500; Mark Souder (Ind.), $6,000; and Dan Burton (Ind.), $5,000.