Fundraising Efforts Shift to Support the New Speaker of the House.
The recent tumultuous journey in the U.S. House of Representatives, marked by conservative Republican Jim Jordan’s quest to become Speaker, came to an abrupt end. However, in an interesting turn of events, the GOP House-led majority decided to go with Speaker Mike Johnson. Jordan’s candidacy was revoked following a third failed vote on the House floor, leaving the House temporarily unable to respond to President Joe Biden’s request for a $106 billion national security package, which included military aid for Ukraine and Israel. Additionally, this impasse threatens to stave off a looming partial government shutdown scheduled for November 18.
As Jordan’s support waned over the course of the week, he received 194 votes in the third round of balloting on Friday, down from the 200 votes he garnered on Tuesday. These results fell well short of the majority required for him to claim the Speaker’s gavel. Consequently, Republicans voted 112-86 to revoke Jordan’s nomination in a closed-door meeting.
“It was an honor to be their speaker designee,” Jordan reflected after the meeting. “We need to come together to figure out who our speaker is going to be. I’m going to work as hard as I can to help that individual.”
At that juncture, it remained unclear who Republicans might turn to as an alternative Speaker candidate. House Republicans regrouped after members of the Freedom Caucus ousted Representative Kevin McCarthy from the Speaker’s role on October 3. McCarthy later endorsed Representative Tom Emmer, the No. 3 House Republican, while at least four other lawmakers had declared their intention to run for the job, with more possible contenders on the horizon.
Notably, Republicans currently hold a narrow 221-212 majority in the House, making it imperative to maintain party unity in order to secure party-line votes. This challenge underscores the urgency of addressing the ongoing legislative dysfunction.
With both McCarthy and Jordan out of the running for Speaker, and with the rejection of their No. 2, Steve Scalise, the House was in search of a leader who could bridge these internal divides.
The following days were expected to witness discussions with candidates, followed by a potential vote later that Tuesday. Among the prospective Speaker candidates are Tom Emmer, Kevin Hern, who leads a conservative policy group, and Austin Scott, a low-profile lawmaker who briefly launched a Speaker bid last week.
Despite the pressing need to address crucial matters, such as President Biden’s aid package and government funding, Republicans had considered and dismissed a contingency plan that would enable the House to take up these issues, according to reports.
This plan would have granted more authority to Republican Representative Patrick McHenry, temporarily occupying the Speaker’s chair at the time. While House Democrats and the White House had expressed their openness to the idea, Republicans opted not to pursue it on Thursday. McHenry himself has not publicly endorsed the plan, indicating his desire to return to his previous post as chair of the Financial Services Committee.
Jim Jordan’s role in the Speaker’s race stemmed from his reputation as a close ally of Donald Trump, who played a significant part in the former president’s efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election. His support for these efforts was a rallying point for Republicans. However, some Republican opponents expressed opposition to what some considered Jordan’s bare-knuckle approach.
Despite the controversy, Jordan’s allies maintained that such issues should not influence the outcome. The Speaker vote witnessed 25 Republican lawmakers casting their votes against Jordan, exceeding the 20 who did so on Tuesday. Jordan’s final vote tally of 194 was lower than any vote received by McCarthy during the 15 rounds of voting in January.
On the Democratic front, there was unanimous opposition to Jordan, with all Democrats voting against him in all three-floor votes.
In the aftermath of Jordan’s defeat, his Republican opponents refrained from celebrating, instead emphasizing the need to restore unity within the party.
Speaker Mike Johnson Takes the Helm
The key force behind Kevin McCarthy’s fundraising operation is moving to support new House Speaker Mike Johnson, an early sign of some unity among the GOP and a boost to the Republican who has a meager fundraising track record.
Jeff Miller — a top fundraiser, adviser, and a longtime pal of McCarthy — said he will begin fundraising for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and his camp. As Speaker Mike Johnson takes the helm of the House GOP, he also assumes responsibility for the party’s House fundraising operation, the resources behind maintaining the slim GOP majority in a heavily fought presidential election season. And Johnson, far from a prolific fundraiser who has only raised about $600,000 between his campaign and leadership PAC since the start of 2023, will need help raising money.
“Throughout my career, I have raised money for Republicans as a volunteer, and I intend to continue to do so,” Miller said in a statement to POLITICO. “I will absolutely help the new Speaker raise the resources to grow our majority in the House. Nothing is more important than electing more Republicans to the House of Representatives.”
Republican lobbyists told POLITICO that Johnson was largely an unknown entity on K Street, without the inner circle of longtime Republican leadership like McCarthy or onetime speaker hopeful Steve Scalise (R-La.). But his selection on Wednesday also ushered in a mad dash of K Street denizens elbowing to get close to the new speaker. Before the vote was final, one Republican on K Street said they were about to start calls to plan one of Johnson’s first fundraisers as speaker.
“That reminds me, I need to get a date on the books,” the person said, noting the expectation of other firms to hold events for Speaker Mike Johnson soon. The goal was to host it as early as next week, the person said.
It would be the “easiest hundred grand,” said the lobbyist, a former House GOP leadership aide who said they were offering advice on staffing to Johnson’s office.
But the chaos of the last several weeks has certainly complicated fundraising for the House GOP with a slim majority, and the party’s leader must raise tens of millions of dollars to fund its members’ campaign coffers. Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with McCarthy, and an affiliated group announced at the end of September that they had raised $80 million so far this election cycle.
A spokesperson for Axiom Strategies, a GOP firm that works for Johnson’s campaign, said there were plans to grow Johnson’s fundraising team.
On Wednesday, signs emerged that the new fundraising apparatus was already moving into place. In an email to donors obtained by POLITICO, Johnson’s fundraising firm announced that it planned to reschedule two upcoming fundraisers next month — one of which was a lunch with a cap of six attendees — presumably to provide time to search for larger venues and hike up the price of admission.
“Please stay tuned as we work on compling [sic] new opportunities for the Speaker moving forward,” Fundraising Inc.’s Alexandra Kendrick said in the email sent minutes after Johnson’s elevation to speaker became official. The note also provided contact information for those looking to host an event with the new speaker.
Compared to those with committee gavels or longstanding positions in House leadership, Johnson has been a relatively lackluster fundraiser for most of his career. Since he was elected in 2016, he has never raised more than $1.4 million for his campaign over any two-year election cycle. In 2022, he ranked 276th among all House incumbents who sought reelection in terms of total fundraising, according to FEC data, and in the bottom half among Republican members as well.
He also has lacked the same small-dollar operations from which a number of his peers benefit. More than 90 percent of the Louisiana lawmaker’s fundraising over his career has come from large donors and PACs. Still, he has largely relied on the same sources as other Republicans, according to a POLITICO analysis of contribution data over the last three cycles.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the former NRCC chair, acknowledged that Johnson might not immediately have McCarthy’s fundraising prowess and suggested other Republicans would have to “do their part” to make up the difference.
“So you’ve got a new captain, he does lots of things well, this one he’s going to have to learn a little bit. Everyone else will have to step up,” Cole said.
Johnson also lacks a sprawling network of veteran K Street aides comparable to that of his predecessor. Among the few is Jason Samuels, who was previously Johnson’s communications director and now lobbies for TikTok as the embattled video platform’s deputy director of campaigns and impact.
Dan Ziegler, a longtime executive director of the Republican Study Committee, including during Johnson’s time as the conservative group’s chair, is now a principal at the lobbying firm Williams and Jensen, where he represents clients like Visa, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer and Owens & Minor.
Johnson’s former operations director and policy adviser, Ruth Ward, now works in government affairs for the Family Policy Alliance, while his most recent communications director, Taylor Haulsee, recently joined the public affairs firm PLUS Communications.
Other lobbyists in Johnson’s orbit include former Sen. David Vitter. The Louisiana Republican is now a partner at the firm Mercury Public Affairs and a longtime personal friend of Johnson, a source familiar with their relationship said. Some former Vitter staffers also now work for the new speaker.
And that inner circle of lobbyists or donors is almost certainly growing soon, even as a number of corporate interests eschewed political donations to members like Johnson who objected to the results of the 2020 election.
“Look, K Street is fickle, and they follow power and they follow titles, and when someone becomes the chairman of [the major committees] it doesn’t matter how crazy they thought that person was a minute ago,” said veteran GOP lobbyist Sam Geduldig, who was an aide to John Boehner before he became speaker. He said that, for either party, that person with the gavel will find themselves with an influx of donations.
“What’s the easiest — best way to get in a room with the new speaker? Probably at a fundraiser,” he added.
The Chamber of Commerce, which has had a notably fraught relationship with House leadership, was also quick to praise Johnson. The Chamber’s chief policy officer Neil Bradley, a former McCarthy staffer who had a rocky relationship with his old boss, called Johnson “a forceful advocate for free markets, limited government and fiscal responsibility.”
The decision from longtime McCarthy confidant Miller to stand behind the House GOP’s new leader comes as some McCarthy staffers may be readying an exodus to K Street. Multiple lobbyists said that the former speaker’s aides had begun making calls to find new gigs downtown, but one noted that there may not be an exciting market for former staffers to the ousted House GOP leader.
This is a developing story, come back to this report for updates.
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