Voting to Overturn the Election Is Apparently Great for Fundraising

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Megan Varner
Megan Varner

After the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Republicans who voted to overturn the election faced an immediate backlash from companies that said they’d pause their donations to those GOP lawmakers. But six months later, a new round of campaign finance disclosures shows that those Republicans are not only not hurting for money, they’re thriving.

The campaign committees belonging to members of the so-called “Sedition Caucus”—the 147 congressional Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 electoral college results—have raised a combined $82.9 million in the first half of 2021, according to The Daily Beast’s analysis of recent filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The vast majority of that money, roughly 89 percent, came from individuals, as opposed to Political Action Committees such as corporate PACs. It’s those individual donors, particularly small-dollar donors, who have propelled some of the most active election-deniers to the top of the fundraising list. But a comparative analysis of first and second quarter data also shows a bump in PAC contributions over the last three months, as business leaders loosen the self-imposed suspensions announced in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack.

Overall, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) topped the seditionist list. And in the House, the top fundraiser was also among the most controversial Republicans: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

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Greene reported $4.53 million in receipts so far this year, topping the second-biggest campaign raiser in the House group—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)—by more than half a million dollars over six months, the vast majority from small-dollar donors. However, those raw numbers don’t reveal that in order to attract those donors, she’s spent about one dollar for every five she raised.

Across the board, Republicans who have attracted the most attention for their election denialism have been some of the biggest winners this year. Beyond Greene, that list includes McCarthy’s $4 million total, along with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who raked in $3.7 million, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who raised $3.16 million amid a federal sex trafficking investigation.

It also appears that rank-and-file GOP objectors are finding their feet after an anemic first quarter. A number of campaigns have doubled or tripled their fundraising since March—sometimes more than that. Filings from Oklahoma House Republicans Tom Cole and Frank Lucas show their campaigns raised about 10 times as much in the second quarter of 2021 than they did in the first.

For the Republicans who bucked Trump, however, it’s a slightly different story.

Many of those Republicans came out of the gate strong this year, and continued to post solid hauls through June. All 10 House members who voted to impeach Trump raised more than $240,000 last quarter, and historically low-profile representatives such as Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Tom Rice (R-SC) have turned in record totals on the year to date.

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But in the second quarter, the group’s overall fundraising flagged. Of the 17 GOP officials who voted to impeach or convict Trump, only one, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), reported more than $1 million in campaign receipts over the last three months. Rice—who occupies a unique position, having voted against the Electoral College results and for impeachment—saw his individual donor numbers drop by half in the second quarter, when he voted in favor of a Jan. 6 commission.

But just as it was the Republicans who voted to overturn the election and promoted their actions who have raised the most campaign cash, it’s the Republicans who voted to impeach and touted their positions that have also done the best.

Cheney has raised roughly $3 million this year, with about $1.9 million of that coming in the second quarter, when she was stripped of her No. 3 House leadership position for continuing to acknowledge that Trump lost the election fair and square.

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Kinzinger was second. Never a major financial force in Republican politics, Kinzinger became a money magnet after his stand against Trump’s post-election lies, and his campaign raised $806,475 last quarter. While not a small number, it’s still a significant drop from his record $1.1 million in the first three months of the year, and one out of every four dollars came from PACs. And his leadership PAC receipts push that total over $1.5 million.

While the seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump posted fairly weak numbers, two of them—Richard Burr (R-NC) and Pat Toomey (R-PA)—have announced their retirements, which essentially shut down their fundraising. And only one of those seven, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), is up for re-election in 2022. But Murkowski also raised more in the second quarter than over the first three months of the year, ending June with a total $1.1 million haul.

In fact, only a handful of pro-impeachment officials posted increases from the first to second quarters of the year, and all of them were more unabashed about their impeachment vote. That crew includes Cheney, Rep. John Katko (R-NY), and Rep. David Valadao (R-CA).

Despite the strong overall showing from brand-name objectors, their pace has slowed since the first quarter. Greene and Jordan both saw declines, as did Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) and Greg Pence (R-IN)—the older brother of former Vice President Mike Pence, whom rioters threatened to execute.

GOP Super PAC Has a New Target: Republicans Who Supported Jan. 6 Commission

Those drops were also compounded by spending losses. The Jordan campaign spent $1 million in raising its $1.5 million, and Greene’s barnstorm stand-up fundraising tour with her fellow objector—the beleaguered Gaetz—didn’t yield a profit: The two campaigns and their joint fundraising committee combined returned a $400,000 loss for the second quarter.

Corporate PAC suspensions in the wake of the attempted insurrection drew major media coverage, and they appear to have had a measurable impact on fundraising—especially among Senate objectors. But that effect seems to be waning, as objectors have begun to increase their fundraising from those PACs.

House objectors more than doubled their PAC fundraising numbers from the first three months of the year, from $2.48 million to $6.49 million. But the numbers suggest that while PACs may feel more comfortable giving to objectors, they favor institutional officials and still harbor a wariness of the most incendiary members, many of whom still rely on small-dollar donors.

Notably, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who replaced Cheney in May as GOP Conference Leader, saw an exponential bump in PAC money this quarter. But Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC)—all outspoken objectors—showed losses among PAC contributions. Greene’s PAC receipts—never especially strong—dropped from $5,000 to $500.

The senators, however, show even thinner PAC support overall. All eight Senate objectors posted six-month PAC fundraising totals shy of $100,000, with the exception of Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). The self-styled populist and top Oxford University grad has reported a total $389,333.33 from PACs this year, around 10 percent of his $3.6 million total.

The filings also show that PACs have been more friendly to the other side of the GOP’s split aisle. The House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, all of them institutionalists, saw a larger proportion of their fundraising come from PACs, with Cheney and Kinzinger leading the field again. The Cheney campaign raised more than $560,000 from PACs over the last six months, and Kinzinger got about $254,000 both quarters.

The biggest loser among Republicans was Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), who voted to overturn the election results hours after the Jan. 6 attack. But that vote doesn’t seem to be the issue for Mooney. Instead, Mooney’s fundraising problems look like they stem from a House Ethics Committee investigation for allegedly misappropriating campaign cash. Mooney appears to have shut down his fundraising operation entirely last quarter.

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