House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy raised more than $20 million in 2017, a hefty haul that the California Republican is putting to work to re-elect his colleagues in the midterm campaign.
McCarthy’s strong off-year fundraising was capped by $4 million in the final three months of the year and fueled by an October swing through California with Vice President Mike Pence that raked in $5 million.
Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has been bragging to colleagues that McCarthy raised three times as much as was ever collected by any Republican House majority leader in a single year.
“The leader has been cultivating donors for years, he takes this very seriously,” said Mike Shields, a veteran Republican operative, in an interview. “He is a politically minded leader — he understands what having those relationships mean and how much that contributes to the cause.”
Among House Republican leaders, only Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin outpaced McCarthy. McCarthy, 52, is a close ally of President Trump and now in his 12th year in Congress. Ryan raised $44 million last year. The funds are crucial, as House Republicans move to withstand strong, anti-Trump headwinds threatening to sweep out the GOP majority in this fall.
McCarthy is something of a self-made fundraising machine. California is a cash register for the Republican Party, but McCarthy’s Bakersfield-area district in the state’s Central Valley is middle class and hardly a donor hub. McCarthy assembled his financial network over time, beginning around his ascension to the California State Legislature in 2002 and his elevation to the post of Assembly minority leader a year later.
McCarthy and his political team raise money through a variety of committees, all designed to comport with federal law. The entities include McCarthy’s personal campaign account, his federal leadership political action committee, a joint fundraising committee set up to handle the money raised with Pence in California and a second JFC that collects funds for McCarthy’s campaign, leadership PAC, and the NRCC.
McCarthy provided the Washington Examiner with an advance look at his 2017 fundraising figures, not due to be filed with the Federal Election Commission until Jan. 31. In the fourth quarter, McCarthy’s committees raised a total of $4 million, bringing his total raised for the year to slightly more than $20 million. Of that, McCarthy transferred $5.5 million to the NRCC.
Additionally, he donated another $1.1 million to the re-election accounts of more than 100 fellow House Republicans. McCarthy has headlined 61 separate fundraisers for his colleagues and traveled around the country, attending 38 other events for GOP members as a guest to help attract contributions.
Part of McCarthy’s successful formula stems from his broad-based relationships. He’s close with the traditional Republican donor community, which he’s been calling on for years. But McCarthy’s friendship with Trump has now put him in position to solicit from donors interested in helping the GOP because they support the president.
“He just has a deep well of support among the donor community,” Shields said. “His relationship now with the White House — he’s seen as a go-to guy on Capitol Hill — let’s him get into a bigger position with Trump donors and other donors across the country.”