Republicans see record fundraising in months after Capitol breach
Republicans who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election are raking in record amounts of cash just months after major corporate donors vowed to pull their support.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was expected to announce that he raised $7.1 million during the first quarter of 2021.
Politico reported that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who played a key role in working to block the certification of the Electoral College results, raised $3 million in the same time period, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced he’s raised $5.3 million, despite neither being up for reelection until 2024.
Meanwhile, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), one of the GOP’s most controversial lawmakers, announced last week that her campaign brought in a whopping $3.2 million during the first quarter of 2021 despite a slew of bipartisan criticism over bigoted remarks and past support for conspiracy theories.
Strategists and insiders say the latest hauls — extraordinary in any year but especially in a non-election year — are indicative of where grassroots Republicans stand.
“Normally a quarter after an election, it’s always the slowest. There’s fatigue among donors, but this shows that people are engaged,” said Republican strategist Matt Gorman.
There were questions after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol about whether lawmakers instrumental in objecting to the certification of President Biden’s victory would face backlash from supporters. A long list of companies, including Hallmark, Airbnb and Nike, said they would cut off donations to politicians who opposed the Electoral College results.
But donations to those lawmakers appear to be far from drying up.
“There was a misconception out there that the GOP was entirely funded by corporations,” said one national GOP strategist.
It’s not clear how much corporate money is flowing to lawmakers who backed former President Trump’s claims of election fraud.
The Hill reported last month that many of the companies who said they would withhold cash from lawmakers in opposition to the election results have found ways to sidestep their pledges by making direct contributions to the House and Senate GOP campaign arms that hand out funds to those same lawmakers.
Candidates have until the end of the week to file their financial disclosure forms and reveal whether they’ve received money from those committees or directly from corporate donors.
But strategist are touting grassroots donations and a robust fundraising infrastructure — including the platform WinRed, which launched in 2019 to compete with Democrats’ ActBlue — in explaining the blockbuster hauls.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Trump campaign encouraged candidates to use the platform during the 2020 campaign cycle, raising more than $129 million for Republicans during the first quarter of last year.
“Whether it’s candidate or party, investing in this kind of thing won’t turn on the spigot overnight, but as you increasingly invest in these things over months and years, that’s when it really starts to take effect,” Gorman said.
Additionally, many of the Republicans raking in large hauls have received generous airtime on right-leaning media, including Fox News and Newsmax. Their presence on these mediums, coupled with the easy process of donating, has only bolstered candidates’ fundraising.
“When you see [the media] try and fill a Trumpless news cycle with someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene, all that does is help her,” Gorman said.
Strategists also say attacks from Democrats on figures like Hawley and Greene galvanize their donor base.
“This is really all about celebrity culture and the ease of raising money these days online,” said GOP strategist Keith Naughton. “[Marjorie Taylor Greene] is raising money because she became an attack point for the Democratic Party.”
“If she’d been ignored by the Democrats, I don’t think she’d be raising this kind of cash,” he added.
Greene cited attacks from her critics in a fundraising email last month that read: “Democrats want me cancelled from Congress but if they don’t succeed, they’re coming after me in my 2022 re-election. And it’s not just the Democrats.”
The lawmakers announcing the largest fundraising totals so far include some of former President Trump’s most ardent and vocal backers. Hawley was the first senator to announce he would object to the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. Cruz was the second. Scalise was the highest-ranking GOP House member to sign on to an amicus brief in a Texas lawsuit seeking to toss millions of votes. And Greene filed articles of impeachment against Biden a day after he was sworn in.
Trump himself has sought to remain an influential voice in the GOP, speaking to a RNC donor retreat in Palm Beach, Fla., last weekend.
But some strategists argue that the latest hauls have less to do with Trump’s involvement than they have to do with the candidates and the fundraising infrastructure they’ve established.
“I think we might be overestimating his influence and underestimating his worry that he’s losing control over a political movement that he can’t really control in the first place,” said Naughton.
“He’s doing a lot of bandwagon politics,” he continued. “I think we’re confusing his power with him just sort of jumping on with whoever is popular, whoever is making waves at the time.”
In fact, Republicans who have not tied themselves closely to the former president have also experienced large fundraising hauls this quarter — though far below the level of candidates like Hawley and Cruz.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who said Trump bears responsibility for the storming of the Capitol, raised $830,000 in the first quarter, bringing his cash on hand total to $1.9 million.
Strategists warn that while fundraising can be indicative of how well a candidate is performing in a cycle, it doesn’t ultimately determine their political fate.
“The real test is at the ballot box,” Naughton said. “Money is easier to raise, but at the same time it’s cheaper to reach people through social media. You don’t need as much cash to get your message in front of people.”
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