Vulnerable House Democrats who supported the healthcare bill last month reaped big financial rewards.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports show the crucial yes votes cashed in between March 21 and the end of the first quarter on March 31. They received big money from Democratic-leaning political action committees (PACs) and fellow Democratic members of Congress.
Several of these members were last-minute yes votes, which helped push the legislation to passage.
Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.) raised more than $100,000 from political committees after deciding to vote yes on the bill, and he raised about $475,000 overall.
Reps. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) and Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) weren’t far behind, each raising more than $90,000 from PACs and fellow members of
Congress in the final week-plus of the quarter. Halvorson raised $410,000 total, while Giffords raised nearly $500,000.
Frequent givers included labor unions and left-leaning groups like the Human Rights Campaign PAC. Several liberal members of Congress who championed the bill, including Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), also rewarded those who voted yes with contributions.
While members flooded each other’s coffers in the final days of the first-quarter fundraising period, House leaders gave little to those who voted no on healthcare reform. In the final week-plus of the quarter, neither Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) gave money to any member who voted no.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) did send money to some “no” votes through their leadership PACs. Hoyer’s PAC gave money to eight of the 34 Democrats who voted no, with all eight considered vulnerable this year.
Pelosi and Clyburn had previously given the maximum amounts to many vulnerable Democrats who wound up voting no, which means there were many members who couldn’t receive additional funds from the leaders.
Democratic leaders have encouraged donors and members to move beyond the contentious vote in the name of keeping their majority in the November elections. Pelosi and Van Hollen, for example, were set to hold a fundraiser Tuesday night for a Pennsylvania special-election candidate who opposes the healthcare bill.
“The Speaker’s first priority is the reelection of our Democratic incumbents,” spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said.
Clyburn spokeswoman Kristie Greco said: “Maintaining a strong majority and reelecting Democrats is the majority whip’s top priority.”
Last year, Democratic leaders took some heat when, on the eve of a difficult vote on an energy bill, they sent tens of thousands of dollars to vulnerable lawmakers who represented crucial votes. FEC reports don’t reveal any similar effort in the first quarter, with the possible exception of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.).
Crowley, who is a chief deputy whip and a contender to become the next DCCC chairman, sent money from his leadership PAC to more than a dozen members three days before the vote, with most of them being vulnerable members who were undecided.
Crowley chief of staff Kate Winkler said her boss wasn’t trying to influence anybody and that the members just happened to be undecided.
“It had absolutely nothing to do with affecting how they would vote on the healthcare bill,” Winkler said.
Another potential future DCCC chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), gave to both yes and “no” votes the week after the vote. She dispensed more than $80,000 to fellow members at the end of the quarter, with $18,000 going to those who voted no.
Weiner, a huge advocate of the bill, gave to about a dozen members who had been on the fence but wound up voting yes. He gave just one contribution to a member who voted no — Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.).
Other yes votes who turned in big quarters included Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), who raised $75,000 of his $600,000 for the quarter after his healthcare vote, and Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), who raised more than $65,000 of her $505,000 for the quarter after the vote.
Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), said the yes votes will still be damaging to the Democrats who cast them.
“As if the backroom deals to pass their government healthcare takeover weren’t enough, Democrats were reduced to buying votes for a bill that the American people oppose,” Lindsay said. “Unfortunately for Speaker Pelosi, most of these ‘investments’ are depreciating assets that will be of no value after November.”
But while some members used their yes votes to build up their coffers, some who voted no had good numbers as well.
Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) raised nearly $600,000 for his campaign against businessman Bill Flores (R), even though he got no fundraising bump at the end.
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) also had a huge quarter, raising $433,000 and pulling in $71,000 after the healthcare vote.
The end of a fundraising quarter is generally a big time for candidates to bring in money. Congress was also out of session the last weekend in March, allowing candidates to devote more time to fundraising.
DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said the Democrats’ cash advantages will be augmented by Republican infighting.
“While House Democrats continue to increase their strength, many of the most hyped Republican House candidates face divisive and expensive primaries where they have been forced to the far-right and outside the mainstream,” Rudominer said.