GOP chairmen fail to cut NRCC checks

More than two dozen House chairmen have not given any money from their campaign war chests to the Republican committee tasked with defending the GOP’s majority.

The lack of direct transfers from Republicans in senior positions comes during a cycle in which the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has outraised the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Twenty-six House Republicans who hold the chairmanship of a committee or subcommittee have not contributed to the NRCC this election cycle through direct transfers, according to a review by The Hill.

The Hill’s analysis is based on publicly available information through this spring. It was not supplied to The Hill by the NRCC.

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Most of the money the NRCC collects is derived from members, and the majority of those dollars generally comes from direct transfers, a Republican strategist familiar with member giving told The Hill.

“The overwhelming amount of money that is spent by the NRCC winning races comes through direct transfers,” said the strategist, who requested anonymity. 

Unless more GOP lawmakers cut checks, “it’s going to mean that Republicans will win less races at the end of the day,” the strategist explained.

Both parties expect a lot of campaign help from lawmakers who hold high-ranking positions and are not politically vulnerable.

The list of 26 members includes senior Republicans who are not in competitive races this year, including Reps. Buck McKeon (Calif.), Cliff Stearns (Fla.), and Tom Petri (Wis.).

There are other ways to be a team player for the NRCC, some Republicans pointed out. Holding fundraisers for others, for example, helps the campaign committee as well as GOP members in challenging races.

The NRCC told The Hill that it does not put more value on direct transfers than on other methods of raising money.

Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), a former NRCC chairman, said there are many reasons why the NRCC appreciates a variety of fundraising help. However, he added that writing a direct-transfer check has clear advantages.

“There [are] no fundraising costs associated with raising $30,000 from a direct transfer or from an individual contribution that a member secures. That’s all profit,” Cole said.

“If you have to throw an event … particularly if you’re doing it through direct mail or telephones, you’re going to lose anywhere between 50 to 85 percent on the same amount of money just to raise a small dollar.”

Staffers for many members contacted by The Hill said their bosses chose to raise funds to fulfill their NRCC obligations. This allows lawmakers to keep more money in their coffers, while tapping the same donors for more cash.

McKeon has approximately $827,000 in his campaign account and $66,000 in his 21st Century PAC. The chairman of the Armed Services Committee has chosen to fulfill his obligations outside of direct transfers, according to a spokesman.

McKeon, like other members on the list of 26 members, has given directly to Republican candidates and lawmakers.

Petri and Stearns have $981,000 and $2.4 million, respectively, in their campaign coffers, according to the latest filings.

Requests for comment from their offices were not returned.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his lieutenants have urged members to dig deeper to help protect their majority. 

“I would say that there is a 2-in-3 chance that we win control of the House again, but there’s a 1-in-3 chance that we could lose, and I’m being myself, frank. We’ve got a big challenge and we’ve got work to do,” Boehner said in April.

That remark was seen as a clear message to House Republicans and outside donors to pony up to the NRCC.

Paying dues to campaign committees is a touchy topic. Last year, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) apologized to Republican members who were singled out in a leaked document that highlighted they were behind in their party dues. 

Sessions emphatically asserted that neither he nor his staff had anything to do with the leak. 

Still, part of the job of being NRCC or DCCC chairman is to lean on members to give to the cause.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told The Hill he “is meeting [his] obligations” through donations across the board. A spokesman clarified that his dues and assessments are being met through individual and PAC donations made to the NRCC in his name.

“Congressman [Michael] McCaul [R-Texas] has raised more than sufficient funds for the NRCC and therefore has not needed to transfer money from his congressional campaign,” communications director Mike Rosen told The Hill.

Republican Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.), Elton Gallegly (Calif.), James Lankford (Okla.), Michael Turner (Ohio), Denny Rehberg (Mont.) and John Fleming (La.) also raised funds outside of direct transfers, according to spokesmen. Gallegly is not seeking reelection and Rehberg is running for the Senate.

Wolf, who has been targeted by Democrats over the last few cycles, raised $278,000 in 2011 and has two events scheduled in July that will go toward his 2012 assessments, according to the congressman’s spokesman.

“[Wolf] has no problem making calls and aggressively raising money for the NRCC to help incumbents and challengers across the country,” the aide said.

The NRCC has nearly $31.3 million cash on hand versus just $11.5 million at this point in 2010, according to Federal Election Commission filings. With less than five months to go before the election, the NRCC is planning to step up its fundraising efforts in the weeks ahead.

Former NRCC Chairman Tom Davis said redistricting, among other factors, can make candidates less willing to share money from their campaigns early in the cycle.

“Given the kind of year it is ... there’s a reluctance to empty your campaign coffers. ... You don’t get everybody to do it early on,” Davis said.

Some of the members on The Hill’s list (see below) have very good excuses for not transferring money to the NRCC, as they are running for the Senate and competing in challenging primaries or general-election races. Others are retiring at the end of this Congress.

Yet there are more than a few targeted members who have cut checks to the NRCC this cycle, including Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle (N.Y.), Sean Duffy (Wis.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Joe Walsh (Ill.). 

Democrats are expected to invest heavily this fall to defeat all four of those lawmakers.


Correction: This article initially reported that Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) had not directly transferred money from his campaign accounts to the NRCC. However, Pitts donated $65,000 to the NRCC after the latest filing deadline. Pitts spokesman Gabe Neville told The Hill that the transactions will be reported in the lawmaker's July 15 filings.

Neville noted that Pitts has done regional events for the NRCC.

“We do our own regional NRCC event every year. Last year we raised and gave more than $200,000 to the NRCC,” Neville said. “We’re on track this year to do $300,000.”

List of 26 House lawmakers who have not directly transferred money to the NRCC in the 2012 cycle

Lawmaker Cash on hand

Akin, Todd* $1.4M
Bilirakis, Gus $439K
Boustany, Charles x $1.5K
Burton, Dan (IN)^ $343K
Chabot, Steve $582K
Chaffetz, Jason $160K
Fleming, John $751K
Gallegly, Elton ^ $737K
Gibbs, Bob x $616K
Heck, Joe x $1.1M
Johnson, Bill (OH)x $869K
Lankford, James $423K
Lungren, Daniel E. x $930K
Mack, Connie* $1.4M
McCaul, Michael $353K
McKeon, Buck $827K
Miller, Gary x $855K
Petri, Tom $981K
Platts, Todd^ $24K
Quayle, Benjamin x $972K
Rehberg, Dennis*
$2.6M
Ross, Dennis (FL) $326K
Stearns, Cliff $2.4M
Turner, Michael (OH) $422K
Wolf, Frank $418K
     
KEY

*- running for senate x - competitive race
^-retiring | - defeated

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