By Scott Wong - 09/09/14 06:00 AM EDT
John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan has little margin for error in Speaker vote Top Lobbyists 2016: Hired Guns The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE’s fundraising machine has propped up the House GOP’s struggling campaign arm this election cycle — a point his team is driving home as the Ohio Republican tries to ward off any serious challenge to his Speakership.
Fresh off a summer fundraising tour that took him through 15 states over the course of 35 days, Boehner has raked in millions of dollars for GOP incumbents and candidates in tough races, as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).
Through the end of June, Boehner had transferred $17 million from his Freedom Project leadership PAC and reelection committees to the NRCC, aides said. And the Speaker raised tens of millions more for the campaign committee by headlining and hosting events and signing fundraising mailers and emails.
That amounts to more than one-third of the NRCC’s total fundraising this cycle, aides estimated, to help Republicans expand their House majority.
But Boehner’s cash game is also sending signals to any would-be challengers eyeing his leadership post: Don’t even think about running, because I’m not going anywhere.
Boehner has frequently clashed with Tea Party conservatives in his conference, most notably when a small, disorganized group plotted to overthrow the Speaker after the 2012 election.
They suffered an embarrassing defeat, but Boehner got the message and moved to shore up support by cracking down on opponents and spreading around campaign cash to allies. Talk of a challenge has mainly died down, but there are still rumors of a dark horse challenger.
“In terms of leadership, he’s in a very strong position with his conference,” said a GOP aide familiar with Boehner’s operation.
Despite being in the majority, the NRCC has lagged far behind its Democratic counterpart in money this cycle. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has raised $136 million through July, $27 million more than the NRCC brought in over the same period.
NRCC officials acknowledge they’d be in a tougher spot without Boehner’s robust fundraising operation. They even cut a two-minute Web video promoting Boehner’s 6,000-mile motorcoach tour, where he stumped for 20 candidates.
“No one has done more than Speaker Boehner to ensure Republicans have the resources to stay on offense and take the fight to the Democrats this November,” NRCC Executive Director Liesl Hickey said in a statement to The Hill. “His leadership and fundraising efforts have been central to the NRCC’s efforts this cycle.”
But Democrats said if Boehner receives credit for the cash he’s sending to the NRCC, he should also receive the blame for the committee’s lackluster cycle.
“John Boehner leads a Republican majority that has been consistently outraised and is instead sitting around waiting to be bailed out by the Koch brothers and their special interest friends,” said DCCC spokesman Josh Schwerin.
“If you want to get to the bottom of the House Republican fundraising shortfall you only need to look in one place: the toxic House Republican agenda.”
Boehner isn’t the only prolific fundraiser in leadership on Capitol Hill. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has raised $68.5 million in the current cycle through mid-July, including $45.4 million directly for the DCCC, an aide said. Only President Obama raises more than her for Democrats.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also has been stumping across the country for cash, in part to head off a possible challenge to his new leadership job. He’s raised or transferred more than $3 million to the NRCC this cycle, and donated an additional $1 million directly to members and candidates, his aides said, along with 66 fundraising trips in the 2014 cycle.
GOP aides note that Boehner’s involvement with the NRCC this cycle isn’t much different from past ones. In the 2012 cycle, he donated more than $25 million to the committee, raising millions more through campaign events, flyers and emails.
But it’s no coincidence the highly publicized summer fundraising tour came just months before the 64-year-old Speaker steps into a closed-door meeting with his conference and makes his case for a third term.
So far, no one has announced a challenge to Boehner’s Speakership. Even powerful conservatives like Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who flirted with the idea earlier this year, now appear to be backing down.
Hensarling, who formerly served in leadership as House GOP Conference chairman, has raised just shy of $3 million for the NRCC this cycle and donated more than $2.2 million more to individual members through the GOP’s Young Guns and Patriot programs.
“He is always a strong raiser for the NRCC and a strong raiser for vulnerable members,” said his political consultant, Julie Hooks.
But unfortunately for would-be challengers, Boehner’s net has a wider reach, helping vulnerable members, GOP challengers and even safe incumbents.
Reps. Sean Duffy (Wis.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.) and Rodney Davis (Ill.), along with Illinois state Rep. Darlene Senger and former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling, all received a boost from Boehner during his fundraising trip. At an event last week in Jefferson City, Mo., Boehner helped fill Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s campaign coffers to the tune of $150,000, according to local reports.
“By every measure, the Speaker’s bus trip was a big success,” said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Boehner’s political operation. “It was a great opportunity to help boost our candidates and talk with Americans about our solutions for jobs and a stronger economy.”