GOP Leaders Tap K Street, Wall Street Cash

The top three GOP leaders in the House collectively raised $7.3 million in the first three months of this year for joint fundraising committees, a type of campaign account that under new rules may collect contributions of six figures or more.

Republicans have been much swifter to leverage the fundraising power of such joint campaign accounts than Democrats, tapping CEOs, investment bankers and K Street lobbyists for donations in the $40,000, $50,000 and even $100,000 range. The joint committees then divvy up their receipts between various accounts — usually a party committee, a leadership PAC and a campaign account.

The House GOP’s newest big money rainmaker is Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, whose fledgling joint fundraising committee pulled in $1.4 million in the first quarter of this year, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Scalise raised $100,000 apiece from Donald Bollinger, who runs the Louisiana labor supply firm Bollinger Enterprises, and Kurt Crosby, president of the marine towing company Crosby Tugs. Louisiana shipping industry executive Gary Chouest gave $139,800 to the joint account, the Scalise Leadership Fund.

Scalise is following the strategy of House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, whose own joint fundraising committee raised $35.4 million in the 2014 election cycle, and which has pulled in $4.3 million since January.

Boehner’s top donors include Bruce Gates, senior vice president for the Altria Group, who gave $53,800, and investment banker John Paulson, president of Paulson & Co., who gave $52,600. Washington lobbyists Sam Geduldig and Kenneth Kies also gave just over $50,000 apiece to the joint committee, known as Boehner for Speaker.

Receipts were divvied up between Boehner’s campaign committee; his leadership PAC, dubbed the Freedom Project; and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Scalise’s joint account followed the same pattern, as did a similar fundraising committee run by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

McCarthy’s joint account has netted $1.6 million since January, putting it on pace to well outstrip its $4 million total in the midterm elections. Known as the McCarthy Victory Fund, the committee pulled in $43,800 from Michael Hayde, CEO of the California property management firm the Western National Group, and $38,400 from Edward Roski Jr., CEO of the Majestic Realty Co. Finance industry executive Charles Schwab gave $43,400, and Robert Lowe, chairman of Lowe Enterprises, gave $21,600.

Advocates of tightening the campaign finance rules object that joint committees raise amounts far beyond the individual $2,700 contribution limit per election. The joint accounts operate under looser rules following last year’s McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court ruling, which lifted the aggregate caps on campaign contributions. That’s made it easier for lawmakers to solicit outsize donations to joint accounts, such as the ones run by Boehner and his lieutenants.

House Democrats, by contrast, have done little to take advantage of the McCutcheon ruling and the growing power of joint accounts. The only Democratic House joint fundraising committee of note is run by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

The Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund pulled in $1.5 million in the 2014 election cycle and has raised about $750,000 since January.

Notwithstanding this disparity, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $19.7 million in the first quarter of this year, just under the NRCC’s $19.8 million in the same window.