While a weakened economy and difficult political environment made 2009 a challenging fundraising year for House Republicans, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) appears on pace to surpass the millions that he raised in the previous election cycle.
Boehner raised $13.7 million in 2009 compared with $23 million in the 2007-08 cycle, according to GOP aides and fundraising information obtained by Roll Call.
The fundraising total combines the efforts of Boehner’s campaign account, his Freedom Project political action committee and other 2009 fundraising activities.
Boehner headlined 127 events around the country last year and raised $6.9 million for Republican candidates and committees.
During the same time period in 2007, he headlined 101 events.
Boehner has recently attended events for Florida Congressional candidates Dennis Ross and Allen West and has also visited candidates in states such as Wyoming, Ohio, Colorado and Louisiana.
Though he won re-election in 2008 with 68 percent of the vote and there is not yet a Democrat registered to run against him this year, Boehner has already raised $2.3 million for his own campaign committee, Friends of John Boehner. He has also raised $1.3 million for his PAC, the Freedom Project.
These accounts turn the money around to other Republican causes. The Freedom Project has contributed $430,000 so far to candidates and party committees; Friends of John Boehner contributed $646,000 to candidates and party committees, including $555,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
All told, including the $3.2 million that Boehner raised for the NRCC though direct mail under his signature, the Minority Leader raised more than $6 million for the NRCC last year.
“Boehner’s been aggressively working to make sure Republicans around the country have the resources and support they need to combat attacks by the left and promote better solutions to the challenges facing families and small businesses,— Boehner spokesman Don Seymour said.
Boehner is no stranger to a rigorous campaign trail.
In October 2008, he visited 17 districts in 10 states, despite an ailing back that required surgery later that month.
“Chairman Sessions is grateful for all that Leader Boehner has done to help provide the NRCC with the necessary resources to win,— said Ken Spain, a spokesman for NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas). “He has led by example, and the numbers speak for themselves.—
Boehner has also helped out home-state candidates. He raised $35,000 last year for Ohio Republicans to help them retake the state House and headlined events for former GOP Reps. Rob Portman and John Kasich, who are running for Senate and governor, respectively.
Prior to this year’s gubernatorial victories and Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s (R) stunning upset in Massachusetts, Republicans — beaten down by two cycles of withering defeats — have struggled to generate enthusiasm for the GOP message. This feeling of malaise was illustrated by the lackluster fundraising numbers posted by the NRCC and the failure of Members to pay their full “NRCC assessment for 2009,— a combination of Member dues and fundraising requirements for the party’s March and June dinners.
Republican membership dues are $25,000 for leadership and ranking members and $15,000 for rank-and-file lawmakers.
On several occasions last year, Boehner and other leaders tried to address this problem by pleading with members of the Conference to pony up funds from their campaign accounts and transfer money to the NRCC.
“I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished together and am honored to be with you in our fight for freedom and reform,— Boehner wrote in a memo to Republicans in December. “So for the last time this year I’m asking you to honor your commitment to our team and write your check to the NRCC today.—
But his travels have not been without their trials. Last year, Boehner was criticized for attending several fundraisers at lavish locales and using campaign funds to finance the trips.
A spokesman for Boehner said at the time that campaigning is expensive, but the benefits outweigh the costs.