By one metric, Rep. Cliff Stearns has donated more to GOP causes than top competitors for the Energy and Commerce Committee gavel, the selection of which hinges in part on how generous members have been with their party.
Though Stearns (R-Fla.) has been dogged by a reputation as stingy, one metric shows a solid fundraising record.
His reputation has been a liability as he tries to move up from his position as the leading Republican on the telecom subcommittee. He wants to lead the full committee, which would make him one of the most powerful members of the House.
A steering committee of Republican members will vote on who takes the gavel, and votes are often influenced by how much candidates have raised funds for the GOP.
Lobbyists say that Stearns is well-known for a lack of generosity with Republican causes. The reputation recently won him jibes from Speaker-designate John Boehner (Ohio) during a fundraising dinner.
However, by a certain metric, Stearns has contributed more money to GOP efforts than two other contenders for the chairmanship, Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas).
Stearns's direct contributions to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and to congressional candidates totals $645,000. Barton's contributions total $583,285 and Upton's total $406,000. A fourth candidate for the chairmanship, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), has contributed the most, at $699,200.
The numbers were compiled by sources who support Stearns's bid, and include direct contributions from these members to the NRCC and to other candidates. They do not include money the candidates raised from individuals and PACs who contributed to the NRCC in their name.
Using another metric — the prevailing one — the numbers fall quite differently, making Stearns's fundraising history look less impressive. This metric combines direct contributions to the NRCC as well as money raised from individuals and PACs who contributed to the NRCC in their name.
Barton has raised the most by this metric ($1.18 million), followed by Upton ($1 million), Stearns ($819,630), and Shimkus ($573,120), according to an NRCC official.
But by a third metric, the candidates are again reordered. This figure shows the percentage that candidates have paid of their NRCC assessment, which is how much the organization asks of each individual member.
Upton has paid 211 percent of his assessment, followed by Shimkus (189 percent), Stearns (169 percent), and Barton (134 percent).
Stearns and Shimkus say they want the job if Barton does not get it. Term limits could disqualify Barton, but he's pushing ahead with his bid.
—Updated at 9:32 p.m. to include additional information.