It's good to be Speaker; Boehner raises $29M

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has raised more than $29 million this year to help Republicans keep control of the House.

Six months into his speakership, Boehner's on pace to shatter the $50 million figure he raised during the entire 2010 cycle.

The haul is partly the result of the Speaker's effort to help build his own political organization, which he reshuffled earlier this year to gather under the roof of "Team Boehner."

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Although Team Boehner will not publicly state a specific dollar goal, the fundraising, which includes money for his political action committees and for other Republican lawmakers and candidates, has been prolific.

Boehner raised more than $12 million for his various fundraising committees during the first half of this year, including $7.5 million between April 1 and the end of June, according to sources close to the Speaker. 

In turn, he's taken that money and used it to support the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the 87-member crop of GOP freshmen, among others.

Boehner's haul underscores the advantages of being a leader in the majority, and builds on a solid fundraising base the Ohio Republican established during his two terms as minority leader. The totals also signal that Boehner is getting aggressive about his efforts to hold on to the gavel past 2012.

"The Speaker is thankful to have generous supporters who share his vision for a smaller government and a healthier economy," said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Team Boehner.

Team Boehner encompasses the Speaker's overall political team and committees. His main committee, Boehner for Speaker, drives his fundraising efforts and splits the money between his personal campaign committee, Friends of John Boehner; his leadership political action committee (PAC), the Freedom Project; and a joint Friends of John Boehner-The Freedom Project fundraising effort. Boehner for Speaker also distributes cash to the Ohio Republican Party and the NRCC.

"Speaker Boehner is committed to doing everything possible in support of our members who are building winning campaigns to strengthen the new House majority and advance our conservative, pro-jobs agenda in Democrat-run Washington," Fritz said.

But Team Boehner has run into some minor hiccups in its first few months. Earlier this year, the Speaker traveled to upstate New York to stump and raise money for Republican Jane Corwin in the May special election. But Democrats eventually won the Republican-leaning seat, sending Kathy Hochul to Washington.

And Boehner has a strong rival in Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Her prolific fundraising ability helped fuel her rise in the Democratic Caucus, and she's been on an aggressive campaign to retake the House and the speakership. In the past six months, she's done 154 fundraising events and directed most of the money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

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Boehner, meanwhile, has done 29 member events in 13 states and Washington, D.C., in the past six months, raising additional funds for members who will face a tough reelection next fall.

He's also focused the freshman class, which has the added benefit of helping ease the tensions that have erupted between him and the freshmen, some of whom openly questioned his decisionmaking in the spending agreement to avert a government shutdown earlier this year. 

In addition, he sent a combined $140,000 — the maximum allowable amount — from his campaign and leadership PAC to the 10 members featured in the NRCC's Patriots Program, its incumbency protection plan.

Boehner has taken additional steps to help build the NRCC's financial strength. He's goaded members to make sure they pay their dues to the committee and has transferred $3 million from his PACs — $2 million to help with the NRCC's day-to-day activities and another $1 million to assist with debt retirement.

"No one has been more helpful than the Speaker in providing the resources we need to achieve our goal of strengthening the Republican majority and staying on offense in Democrat districts," said Paul Lindsay, the NRCC's communications director.

In the coming weeks, Boehner's set to bolster his operation by launching a new online platform to expand outreach on the grassroots level, almost mirroring the kinds of websites used by presidential campaigns, which incorporate new-media tools and streamlined fundraising widgets to promote their work.

And if Republican presidential candidates have had trouble raising the major sums needed to run their campaigns, Boehner has not. He enjoys the unique status of being the highest-ranked elected Republican official in the country, especially since the GOP is months away from selecting its national standard-bearer and presidential nominee.

The Speaker's efforts are likely to ramp up next year as the election approaches, through his campaigning and fundraising for House incumbents and candidates. He's less likely to take an active role in the presidential campaign, even after the GOP has a nominee.