Rep. Devin Nunes’ big role in the unfolding drama between Justice Department and the Trump administration has drawn national headlines — and allowed him to collect big money from D.C. area donors.
But the California Republican is also being dogged by accusations he’s no longer focused on his constituents.
Through the end of March, the Fresno-area Republican has raised far more from D.C. and its neighboring states than he has from his own district, an analysis of campaign finance data finds.
Of the more than $1 million Nunes raised from individual donors, roughly $19,000, or 2 percent, came from people in his district, which includes chunks of Fresno and Tulare Counties. That's the smallest percentage of any the eight California Republicans in Congress who Democrats are targeting for defeat this fall.
A third of Nunes' individual donations came from out-of-state, including more than $100,000 from Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
In addition, Nunes has raised more than $1 million from corporate PACs and other political committees, which are primarily based in Washington and its suburbs.
Nunes declined to comment. But Jim Brulte, chairman of the California Republican Party, said anyone attacking Nunes for not being involved in his district doesn't know what they're talking about.
"Devin has forgotten more about water than most people have ever learned, and led the fight to bring water back to the district in 2016," Brulte said, referencing a highly contentious California water bill that passed Congress in 2016. The final version of the bill was crafted by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
"Devin is highly regarded and very well known in his district," he added. "This sounds like something cooked up by someone who has never stepped foot in the Central Valley."
Nunes has come under fire back home from political opponents, Democratic ad campaigns and local officials for spending too much of his time attacking the special counsel investigation into President Donald Trump's presidential campaign's ties with Russia, and too little working on district priorities.
He's been repeatedly criticized for not holding town halls. He did hold water forums open to the public in 2016, according to public records, but questions were screened by staff. Those are the only recent public forums by Nunes in his district on record, though constituents have held town halls that he's refused to participate in.
He hasn't sponsored legislation — besides a resolution to fix a language technicality in January — submitted amendments or put out a press release in 2018. Of five posts to his blog in 2018, two are focused on what he deems liberal "fake news."
Nunes' escalating confrontation with the Justice Department has made him a fixture on cable news. Most recently, Nunes was in the middle of a controversy over a classified FBI briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss the role of an informant that Trump has accused of spying on his campaign.
The California Republican has been using those headlines in his fundraising appeals to D.C.-area donors — the Huffington Post reported earlier this month that one Virginia resident received a fundraising appeal from Nunes boasting of his role in exposing " the real collusion between the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Clinton campaign.”
It also highlighted how Trump called the Republican congressman a "Great American Hero" in a February Tweet. Trump repeated his praise of Nunes on Monday, calling Nunes "a very courageous man," during an event at the CIA.
Democratic donors have responded by pouring money into the campaign of a little-known opponent, Andrew Janz, a deputy district attorney with the Fresno County. Janz has now raised more than $1 million and while much of it has come from liberal donors outside the state, he's still raised more money from the district than Nunes — $77,000.
Leading nonpartisan political analyst Sabato's Crystal Ball changed Nunes' seat from safely Republican to likely Republican in late April, citing Janz's fundraising.
It's not just Janz's fundraising that could make Nunes vulnerable. His lead role in the partisan warfare in Washington has also caused problems at home.
A Tulare City Council meeting erupted into a public squabble in March, after one Democratic council member said he made every effort to accommodate Nunes' for a town hall, but Nunes' office never responded to him.
Other council members defended Nunes, saying he was widely respected in the district. Nunes won more than twice the votes of his opponent in the 2016 election. Calls to Tulare officials were not returned.
A Democratic ad campaign called Fight Back California is pledging to spend $50,000 to $100,000 trying to hammer Nunes’ for his absence. The first shot by the campaign included three billboards that have been posted along a main highway in the district.
Together, the billboards ask: "Why is Devin Nunes hot on Russia while farmers get burned on a trade war with China? Congressman Nunes, how could you forget us?"
Heather Greven, campaign manager for Janz, said there is no evidence Nunes' work on water has benefited the people in his district. Greven said Trump's proposed tariffs could greatly hurt almond and raisin farmers in the district, but Nunes has said nothing publicly on the topic, despite his relationship with the president.
"There are still people who don't have clean water in this district, and are bathing their children with water bottles. What has he done?" she asked. "Show me the results. What has he done?"