Before embarking on a week of campaigning over the Memorial Day recess, Minority Whip Eric Cantor stopped by the National Republican Congressional Committee to give away the millionth dollar from his leadership political action committee to GOP candidates.
Although the Virginian is the No. 2 Republican in the House, his leadership political action committee, ERICPAC, is the top-grossing House leadership PAC of either party for the 2010 election cycle, according the Center for Responsive Politics.
Those close to him attribute his fundraising success to his hands-on approach and relentless work ethic. “He never says no, and he just works hard,” Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said. “That is just his nature.”
One GOP operative said Cantor was “a machine” when it comes to pulling in money for fellow Republicans.
“He has one of the most aggressive fundraising operations around,” the Republican strategist said.
Cantor is so serious about raising money for the party, GOP sources said, that he requires his fundraisers to take him on as their only major client.
Cantor’s schedule is equally aggressive, McCarthy said, adding that he wasn’t sure when Cantor found time to sleep.
“He is constantly working and utilizing his time to the fullest,” McCarthy said.
Rob Collins, president of the American Action Network and Cantor’s former deputy chief of staff, said, “The hard work Eric puts in developing national policy, crafting relevant messages and his commitment to the grass roots has created a Cantor’ national identity that allows him go into almost any city in America to raise a lot of money for Republicans.”
Over the weeklong break from Washington, D.C., Cantor attended events for Republican candidates and incumbents in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
“I just want to make sure candidates have the resources they need to deliver their message,” Cantor told Roll Call in a phone interview between events last week. “That’s why we are raising contributions more than any other [PAC] and contributing as quickly as possible.”
Cantor’s PAC has collected almost $2.2 million so far this election cycle. He has been particularly adept at drawing contributions from the financial services industry. Of the $2.2 million, his PAC collected $629,215 through April 30 this election cycle from individuals and PACs associated with the securities and investments, insurance, real estate, finance, credit, and commercial banking industry sectors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
As the lone Jewish House Republican, Cantor also has successfully reached out to the Jewish community. “For Jewish Republicans, he’s the only guy,” another GOP strategist said. “He has that market cornered.”
Cantor said the “Young Guns” program that he created with McCarthy and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in 2008 to incentivize candidate fundraising has strengthened his pitch to potential donors.
Candidates named to the three-level program must meet individualized benchmarks set by the NRCC in order to qualify for fundraising and infrastructure support.
The benchmarks become higher and more stringent with each level of the program.
Cantor said the structure of the program gives donors more confidence that their contributions will go to winning campaigns.
“We try to apply business accountability to these campaigns,” he said.
Cantor said the primary election losses of several candidates in the program this year would not hurt Young Guns. “Surely there are going to be some winners and some losers,” Cantor said.
His focus on fundraising has also extended to the Republican whip team.
In July 2009, Cantor and McCarthy raised more than $1 million for more than 50 whip team members to allow them to better focus on raising cash for the party.
McCarthy said that in return, Cantor asked whip team members to raise $12,000 each for the Young Guns program, in addition to paying their NRCC dues in full.
Rep. Peter Roskam (Ill.), a member of the Republican whip team, said Cantor is “single-minded” about the need for Republicans to recapture the House.
“He’s organized, and he’s focused,” Roskam said. “The guy has a work ethic that is second to none.”
Roskam said Cantor’s affable nature also helps reel in donor dollars.
“I think he’s also an easy guy to say yes to,” Roskam said. “He’s clear in his conservative world view, and there is a winsomeness to him that I think people enjoy.”
A third GOP strategist summed up Cantor’s abilities by comparing him to one of the Senate’s most prolific fundraisers, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“Let’s face it, Cantor is the Republican Chuck Schumer,” the strategist said, “just with Southern charm and better hair.”