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How the Jan. 6 riot is affecting campaign fundraising

Small donors buoy Republicans who saw PAC funding drop

Industry PAC contributions to House Republicans who voted against certifying Electoral College results in January fell during the first quarter of the year, but many made up for it with an influx of contributions from small donors.

Meanwhile, Republicans who voted to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting insurrection also saw their fundraising grow, including from PACs, as they prepared for primary challenges.

Political action committees of many companies and lobbying groups said they would pause some or all contributions after rioters broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win.

New campaign finance disclosures show House members who objected to Biden’s electoral votes in two states raised $52,000 less from PACs, on average, than they did during the same period two years ago, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis of first-quarter filings with the Federal Election Commission. 

At the same time, donors giving small sums, less than $200 a pop, gave such members an average $56,000 more than in the previous period two years ago. Republicans in 2019 were also racing to catch up with Democrats in developing a system to attract donations of $5 or $10 in response to email solicitations, a grassroots source of support that Donald Trump capitalized on in his 2016 election.

Of the 139 House members who voted against certifying electoral votes, the analysis looked at the 103 who were serving in 2019 and could provide a comparison to the same point in the last election cycle. 

All told, the average lawmaker  in the group took in $254,000 during the first three months of this year, compared with $226,000 in 2019.  

Hawley, Cruz lead senators

The eight Republican senators who objected to certain Electoral College results raised, on average, $1.1 million in this year’s first quarter.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz led the pack with a $3.6 million haul, including $2.4 million in donations under $200. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, one of the lead objectors, raised $3 million in the first quarter, including $1.7 million in small donations.

“They tried to use corporate America’s economic stranglehold to starve me of financial support. They proclaimed me dead in the water; that the long list of corporations rescinding financial support would be my downfall,” Hawley wrote in an email to his supporters this week.

Seven GOP senators voted in February to convict Trump after his impeachment. Two of them, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, are retiring. The remaining five senators, on average, raised $206,000 in the first quarter. At first glance that’s a small sum for a senator, but only one of the five, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, is up for reelection next year. 

Murkowski has not yet said whether she is definitely running again, but Trump has pledged to campaign against her if she does. She raised $381,000 in the first quarter, including PAC contributions from fellow GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Susan Collins of Maine, who also both voted to convict Trump, as well as from Republican Sens. Todd Young of Indiana and Michael D. Crapo of Idaho. Murkowski’s campaign ended the quarter with nearly $1.4 million in the bank. 

Impact varies in House

Among House Republicans who voted against certifying the electoral results, there were sharp variations within the group. 

Some well-known members raised significantly more than in 2019 — Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan’s total collections were $1.8 million higher, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’s rose $1.6 million, and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik’s grew by $753,000. 

At the same time, some 58 members raised less money than they did in the comparable period, with the average decline about $101,000.

Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly saw the biggest drop, raising less than $72,000, compared with $461,000 in 2019. Kelly got nothing from PACs during the first quarter of this year, after raising $244,000 from them over the same period in 2019. Kelly, however, had $923,000 in his campaign fund at the end of the quarter, $524,000 more than he had at the same point in 2019, largely because of funds left from last year’s race.

Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, was one of those whose contributions from PACs barely changed, with $71,000 raised this year, compared with $77,000 in 2019. Among the donors giving the maximum $5,000: the Committee for the Advancement of Cotton, Crop Insurance Professionals Association PAC, John Deere PAC, Plains Cotton Growers PAC, and the Southeast Cotton Ginners Association. 

Tying fundraising to Trump

It’s not just FEC data that shows top House Republicans among the 139 are keeping their fundraising operations closely aligned with the former president, who himself was a magnet for small donations.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, for one, sent a solicitation Thursday, leading with the tidbit that he “was recently at Mar-a-Lago with President Trump.”

“I want President Trump to see that YOU gave $25 or more to show your dedicated support,” he added.

On the other side, the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on charges of inciting an insurrection haven’t had trouble raising money. Of the 10, eight were in Congress two years earlier and all raised more in this year’s first quarter than they did in 2019’s.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who survived an attempt to remove her from House leadership but remains a target of Trump’s email missives and criticism in speeches, led the group by raising $1.5 million, including $301,000 from PACs and $167,000 from donors giving less than $200.

Also seeing a steep increase among this group was Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who raised $1.1 million, up from $326,000 in 2019. 

One Republican, South Carolina’s Tom Rice, voted both to object to Electoral College results and later to impeach Trump. He raised more than $404,000, a 168 percent increase over 2019, even as contributions from PACs fell by 37 percent. Rice raised $10,000 from donors giving under $200, after reporting nothing in the first quarter of 2019.

Fight ‘for the soul’ of GOP

Overall, the eight non-freshman House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump raised $5.5 million during the quarter, up from $2 million in the comparable cycle two years earlier. The average increase was $447,000 or up 182 percent.

“I think what the first quarter showed, with me, with Liz [Cheney], frankly, the others that voted to impeach, is that there’s a constituency that supports doing the right thing,” Kinzinger said in an interview Friday. “This is about a fight for the soul of the party.”

Kinzinger noted that his campaign has continued to attract donations from PACs, adding that “for PACs, it’s important, especially if you’re representing a large group of people, to put your money where your values are, so we haven’t seen any hit on that side.”

Raising money from small-dollar donors is its own challenge, he conceded, noting that many such donors respond to “rage and anger and fear on Twitter.”  

“The difficulty is, people that want good, normal governance aren’t the ones that are staring at Twitter all day long,” Kinzinger said.

PACs un-pausing?

Kinzinger’s first quarter report shows donations from such PACs as Duke Energy, one of those that said they would shut off donations entirely early this year. Another such fund, Altria’s PAC, for example, disclosed contributions to GOP Reps. Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Steve Stivers of Ohio, who both voted to certify the electoral results in January.

It’s a sign that at least some of the corporate PACs that took a pause have begun to unfreeze their coffers. More are likely to come. 

“As many organization PACs begin to move forward, these recent contributions show that employees continue to believe that their company and trade association PACs are an important way they can exercise their civic duty and support lawmakers who will advocate for their jobs and their communities,” said Micaela Isler, executive director of the National Association of Business Political Action Committees. 

Isler’s group recently surveyed its members and found that 67 percent reported taking a pause on at least some of their contributions and that 47 percent said they would do so for the first quarter. 

Among the PACs that paused, Isler said, 51 percent suspended contributions to all candidates, while 32 percent took at least a temporary pass on donations to the lawmakers who voted against certifying the electoral results.  

“Most people have figured out where they are and what their plans are,” said Kristin Brackemyre, director of PAC and government relations for the industry group Public Affairs Council. “Some are still in the stages of tinkering with their criteria and doing town halls with their employees.” 

When paused PACs restart, it draws the attention of reporters as well as campaign finance overhaul advocates. Brackemyre said companies are well aware that their donations, especially to the GOP lawmakers who opposed certifying the election results, may attract scrutiny and headlines. 

“Most PACs are prepared that it very well could be a story,” she said. “Part of our guidance is reinforcing that they need to be prepared to defend those contributions. If they’re going to say anything publicly, then focus on internal messaging. … They most certainly are communicating internally.”  

Isler and Brackemyre said they were concerned that the pressure on corporate PACs, which disclose their donations and are capped at $5,000 limits, may prompt more companies or executives to seek out murkier channels of political influence, such as through nonprofit organizations that don’t disclose their donors and may give and spend unlimited sums.

Chris Cioffi and Ryan Kelly contributed to this report.

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