Self-funder Among GOP Members Asking Colleagues for Debt Help

Indiana’s Trey Hollingsworth is worth nearly $60 million

Indiana Rep.-elect Trey Hollingsworth is on a list of GOP members asking their colleagues for help with unpaid campaign expenses. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Indiana Rep.-elect Trey Hollingsworth is on a list of GOP members asking their colleagues for help with unpaid campaign expenses. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted December 16, 2016 at 5:00am

Indiana Rep.-elect Trey Hollingsworth loaned his campaign more than $3 million of his own money to get elected in the 9th District this year. But he’s now asking his new colleagues in the House to help with his unpaid campaign bills. 

Hollingsworth is one of ten members-elect on a list of candidates with campaign debt that the National Republican Congressional Committee distributed to the House GOP caucus. Two returning congressmen were on this year’s list, Carlos Curbelo of Florida and Will Hurd of Texas. Lawmakers can use their own campaign accounts or leadership PACs to help their indebted colleagues.

With his inclusion on the list, Hollingsworth is asking for help paying $246,000 still owed to political consultants. The Indianapolis Star first reported on Hollingsworth’s inclusion on the list Wednesday night. 

“Rep.-elect Hollingsworth is extremely appreciative of those willing to help retire campaign debt that is owed to vendors,” senior campaign adviser Rob Burgess said in a statement. “Rep.-elect Hollingsworth is not seeking any assistance in retiring loans made to the campaign by him.”

Asked about the optics of asking for help with unpaid campaign bills when he’s worth $58.5 million, Hollingsworth said in an interview Thursday that all freshmen with debt were on the list and that he couldn’t comment beyond the statement issued by Burgess.

Not all incoming members with debt were included on the copy of the list obtained by Roll Call. Nine newly elected members with outstanding debt listed in a Dec. 8 filing known as the post-general report were not on the list. The NRCC did not immediately return requests for comment about how the list was compiled. 

Hollingsworth defeated Democrat Shelli Yoder by 14 points last month. What was supposed to be a safe Republican race turned into a competitive contest because of Hollingsworth’s recent arrival in the district from out of state. He moved to Jeffersonville — across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky — just before announcing his election bid last fall. His opponents attacked him as a carpetbagger.

Both Democratic and Republican outside groups spent money in the 9th, with the NRCC reserving more than a million dollars in the week before the election. But Hollingsworth vastly outspent Yoder, in large part because of the personal money he loaned to his campaign. 

He also benefited from a super PAC largely funded by his father, Indiana Jobs Now, which spent about $1.5 million getting him through the five-person primary in May and the general election. 

Hollingsworth reported $579 in his campaign bank account on Nov. 28, based on his post-general report. The campaign committee had about $806,000 in debt on that report. His campaign has paid back $43,000 in personal loans Hollingsworth made to the campaign committee.

The outstanding debt Hollingsworth’s campaign committee owed to vendors includes $197,000 to Jamestown Associates for media production and placement and political consulting. It owed $36,000 to 3D Strategic Research for polling. The campaign committee was also indebted by about $3,300 to Strategic Advance Security for event security, $2,330 to Arent Fox for legal fees, $5,000 to Colbert Consulting and $3,000 to Gula Graham for fundraising consulting. 

Other incoming members with debt who were on the NRCC list include Hollingsworth’s fellow Hoosier, 3rd District Rep.-elect Jim Banks. His campaign was $83,000 in debt as of its post-general report. Banks didn’t face a competitive race after winning the May primary. He doled out campaign cash to other House candidates around the country this year.

Others included Michigan Rep.-elect Jack Bergman, whose campaign committee owed $23,000

Arizona Rep.-elect Andy Biggs’ campaign committee owed $19,000 in legal fees stemming from his primary recount in the 5th District.

The campaign committee of North Carolina Rep.-elect Ted Budd, who won a 17-way primary in June, before cruising to victory in the general election, had accrued $34,000 in debt.  

Florida Rep.-elect Neal Dunn won a competitive primary and an easy general election in a safe GOP seat. His campaign committee was $87,000 in debt. In another safe Republican Sunshine State seat, Rep.-elect Matt Gaetz’s campaign was $5,600 in debt. 

Pennsylvania Rep.-elect Brian Fitzpatrick’s campaign was $172,000 in debt. He won a competitive race in the Philadelphia suburbs. 

The campaign of Rep.-elect Mike Gallagher, who won in Wisconsin’s GOP-leaning 8th District, was about $27,000 in debt.

Virginia Rep.-elect Tom Garrett’s campaign was only $1,000 in debt. He easily defeated Democratic challenger Jane Dittmar in the 5th District. 

Returning members Curbelo and Hurd faced re-election races that were among the most competitive in the country. Curbelo’s campaign owed $141,000, mostly for consulting, while Hurd’s campaign owed $227,000 to its media and strategy consultants.