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Republicans lead fundraising races going into the session freeze

1. Republicans lead fundraising races going into the session freeze

The minority Republican caucuses in both the House and the Senate finished 2021 with more campaign money than their Democratic rivals. 

That’s somewhat surprising because the majorities’ leaders and committee chairs are generally better positioned to raise money than their adversaries without gavels. 

Lawmakers can’t raise money during the session. Digging a little deeper into the committees’ filings with the Public Disclosure Commission, we see a few key indicators. 

Republicans are working the surplus shuffle hard and early 

Most of the hard money — cash that can be given directly to candidates — comes from powerful lawmakers in safe districts who raise the maximum of $2,000 per donor for their nonexistent campaigns and then launder the money through a loophole in the campaign finance law that I’ve written about over at The Washington Observer. 

House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, poured $120,000 in surplus money into the House Republican Organizational Committee, which raised $674,000 in 2021. Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, raised $100K of the $417K the Senate Republican Campaign Committee brought in. Neither House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, nor Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, pumped any surplus money into their caucus committees.

Republican-aligned donors are writing big soft-money checks early

The Reagan Fund, the House Republicans’ soft-money committee, raised $843,000 in 2021, including $50,000 from Kemper Holdings, the company of Bellevue developer and GOP megadonor Kemper Freeman; $40,000 from Altria Client Services (Big Tobacco); $35,000 from the Building Industry Association of Washington; $25,000 from  Marathon Petroleum, which owns one of the two oil refineries in Anacortes; and $25,000 from Phillips 66, which owns one of the refineries at Cherry Point in Whatcom County. None of those donors were there for Democrats.

The Leadership Council, the Senate Republicans’ soft-money PAC, raised $822,000 last year. It got similar checks, along with $100K from the GOPAC Election Fund, a national dark-money PAC based in Arlington, VA. The fund is“focused on ensuring the Republican Party has a healthy roster of prepared and tested leaders ready to run for higher office,” per its website. 

The Democrats’ soft-money committees, the Truman Fund and the Kennedy Fund, have historically had their own deep-pocketed donors, most prominently public-sector unions including the Washington Education Association. But those checks haven’t arrived yet this cycle. 

Democrats are spending more money 

All four Democratic committees spent significantly more money than their Republican counterparts on staff and consulting services such as polling. This likely signifies that Democrats aren’t concerned that their big donors will come through as November’s election nears. 

At the end of 2021, total cash on hand — both soft and hard — for the caucuses looked like this: 

House Republicans: $1.25M
House Democrats: $1.22M
Senate Republicans: $1.16M
Senate Democrats: $1.01M

For context, the totals raised by the four caucuses in 2020:

House Republicans: $3.273M
House Democrats: $4.77M
Senate Republicans $2.523M
Senate Democrats $2.642M
(The House caucuses typically raise more hard money because they have twice as many members.)

Clearly, there’s still a flood of money to come.

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