Congress

Though not speaker, California’s Kevin McCarthy still a money magnet

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. speaks about foreign policy during the John Hay Initiative, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, at a hotel in Washington.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. speaks about foreign policy during the John Hay Initiative, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, at a hotel in Washington. AP

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s aborted run for House speaker was not a complete loss for him or his fellow Republicans. It boosted, at least temporarily, his already formidable fundraising.

Now, with a hefty $6.5 million on hand in the three campaign accounts he controls, the Bakersfield, Calif., native is poised to resume dishing out assists to other GOP candidates.

It’s a combination of grunt work and tactical planning that helped fuel McCarthy’s early rise. Depending on who becomes speaker, the job McCarthy seemed destined for and then fell short of, his fundraising is also a responsibility that might grow heavier.

At first blush, it might seem McCarthy has minimal need for more campaign money.

Republicans enjoy a 45 percent to 29 percent voter registration advantage over Democrats in McCarthy’s district spanning parts of Tulare, Kern and Los Angeles counties. If anything, that understates GOP strength. In 2014, McCarthy won with 75 percent of the vote.

But like other seemingly safe incumbents, McCarthy keeps raising money both to deter future challengers and to spread the surplus among his needier colleagues.

$6,583,280 Cash in Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s three campaign accounts.

As a general rule in politics, higher positions attract more money. Sometimes, all it takes is the prospect of a promotion.

On Sept. 25, notably, House Speaker John Boehner announced his intention to step down. As No. 2 in the House GOP leadership, the well-liked McCarthy was considered the presumptive heir apparent. Money-wise, he was a magnet that had just gotten stronger.

Several hours after Boehner’s announcement, the Washington Post reported, McCarthy’s campaign team sent invitations for a McCarthy Victory Fund fundraiser to be held Oct. 1. Though the results won’t be reported until Jan. 15, other fundraising picked up immediately.

“The speaker has huge power and responsibility, beyond what the majority leader has,” Common Cause president Miles Rapoport said in an interview Tuesday, and “the speakers are always the leaders in fundraising, ever since money became so important in politics.”

Contributions totaling $26,500 flowed into McCarthy’s personal campaign account on Sept. 25, newly filed campaign reports show. The contributors included some who had not previously donated to McCarthy.

All told, between Boehner’s Sept. 25 announcement and the Sept. 30 end of the third-quarter reporting period, McCarthy’s personal campaign committee collected more than $199,000, records show. The donors ranged from members of Modesto’s winemaking Gallo family to the likes of Sacramento’s Blue Diamond Growers.

McCarthy’s fundraising in the reporting period’s final week jumped about 80 percent higher than his average weekly take during the quarter. The surge left his campaign account with $4 million on hand.

The separate McCarthy Victory Fund, which aids the Republican congressional campaign committee, had $1.7 million on hand as of Sept. 30. Its collections, too, soared in the final week of September, records show, with contributors ranging from television personality Mary Hart to the California Canning Peach Association.

McCarthy’s separate leadership committee, called the Majority Committee PAC and which funds GOP candidates, has not yet filed its report showing September contributions. As of Aug. 31, it had $865,000 on hand.

Already hectic, McCarthy’s fundraising pace could conceivably even accelerate, depending on Boehner’s replacement.

The House Ways and Means Committee chairman who many Republicans hope takes the job, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is the father of three children and reportedly has made clear his discomfort with the fundraising-related travel the speakership can entail. As a lure, some colleagues have suggested other leading Republicans could help shoulder the burden.

Michael Doyle: 202-383-0006, @MichaelDoyle10

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