House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) raised a historic amount of cash during his first full year in GOP leadership, taking in $7.3 million for himself and other Republicans in 2015, according to figures provided to The Hill before Monday’s filing deadline.
“We’re already working on a very aggressive schedule for 2016,” Scalise told The Hill in a telephone interview on Sunday, counting “both the normal fundraising that I would do as a member of leadership, but also to get out to as many districts as I can.”
No strict monetary goals have been established, he said, but he has no intention of slowing down. In 2015, his political team estimates that he traveled to more than 30 states and helped roughly 140 Republican House members and candidates.
“We want to keep that pace up. It’s an aggressive pace, but I think it’s important as a member of leadership that you step up and do those extra things to help strengthen our majority,” Scalise said.
He’s also starting off 2016 on good footing: The third-highest ranking Republican in the House will begin the year with slightly more than $1 million in the bank.
During the last three months, Scalise’s three fundraising vehicles raised more than $950,000.
Those entities -- Scalise for Congress, his leadership PAC, called the Eye of the Tiger PAC, and a joint fundraising account with the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) -- brought in an overall total of $4.6 million in 2015.
It ranks among the largest annual war chests ever pulled in by a whip during a non-election year.
In another feat, he raised or directly transferred more than $1.5 million to the NRCC last year -- the most of any whip during an off-year, according to an NRCC aide.
Additionally, Scalise made $950,000 in direct contributions to candidates and members last year, including creating a special fund for at-risk Republicans.
Dubbed lagniappe -- a term pronounced lan-yap that’s used frequently in the New Orleans area, and means “a little something extra” -- the program funneled almost $500,000 to 60 different vulnerable candidates and members in 2015.
In southern Louisiana, the term is often punctuated by a merchant or street vendor throwing in a gift with purchase -- a word Mark Twain once wrote was “worth traveling to New Orleans to get."
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, it means Scalise has taken a special interest in you. The events have a distinct flair, often including shrimp and fried alligator on the menu.
The program is in addition to his contributions to the NRCC’s Patriot Program, which also aims to bolster the campaign resources of vulnerable incumbents.
Those efforts may be especially necessary in 2016, as the GOP works to maintain its historic majority. Although Democrats tend to fare better in presidential election years, they must win a net 30 seats in order to take back the House.
“Nancy Pelosi is going to continue working hard to try and take that majority back and we’re not going to let that happen,” Scalise said.
According to the most recent Cook Political Report, there are 16 Republican seats in toss-up races or in districts that favor Democrats.
“Of course, with the largest majority since 1928, that means there are a lot more tough seats to defend. There are still some additional opportunities to go out and win some seats we don’t yet have,” Scalise added.
He credits the team he put together after joining Republican leadership in August 2014, including political director Tyler Daniel, for the success in 2015.
When Scalise began fundraising at the beginning of last year, he set a goal of a half-million dollars for the first quarter.
Those three months ended up being his team’s most prolific of the year, pulling in $1.5 million for himself and the NRCC.
“I’ve had a lot of requests from members to go and do a lot more events like the ones I did in 2015 in their districts, and I enjoy doing that,” Scalise said. “You get to see just what kind of districts our members come from, you learn a little bit more about them and their districts and I think that helps me be a better member of leadership.”
“It’s hard work to raise money, but you ought to be able to learn something along the way,” he said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) raised more than a combined $11 million in 2015, according to Politico.
Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report Trump takes action to move forward with Keystone, Dakota Access pipelines Ryan: ‘No evidence’ of mass voter fraud as Trump claimed MORE (R-Wis.), who replaced John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists expect boom times under Trump Last Congress far from ‘do-nothing’ Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions MORE at the end of October, raised a total of more than $5.3 million in the last two months of 2015 alone, Politico reported.