By Jason Lange and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The two declared candidates for speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan, stand out as top campaign fundraisers in their caucus, with Scalise holding an edge in dollars contributed to party allies.
Several factors will play into how the 221-member House Republican conference will cast their votes, possibly as soon as Wednesday, in a race for the party nomination for speaker, following the ouster of Kevin McCarthy in Republican infighting on Tuesday.
But history shows that strong fundraising abilities are an asset for winning the chamber’s top job, a powerful post that is second in line to the U.S. presidency after the vice president.
Scalise, a 15-year veteran House member from Louisiana who currently is the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, was also his caucus’s No. 2 fundraiser in the 2022 midterms cycle, gathering more than $18 million through his re-election campaign, according to campaign finance disclosures to the Federal Election Commission.
Scalise’s congressional campaign gave more than $15 million to allies and conservative causes, including more than $14 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), his disclosures show. The NRCC is the party apparatus that works to elect Republicans to the House.
It is a badge he can display as he tries to convince his fellow Republicans to support his bid for the speakership amid an intra-party revolt by hard-right conservatives. McCarthy lasted only nine months as speaker.
‘NO SLOUCH AT FUNDRAISING’
Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist who in the past worked for a House speaker and Senate majority leader, said in a telephone interview, “I think he has an advantage” in the race.
Besides having a large organization in place by virtue of being majority leader, “He’s no slouch at fundraising,” Bonjean noted.
Jordan, a 17-year House veteran from Ohio who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has done pretty well in the money game too.
He was No. 4 in fundraising among House Republicans and raised more than $14 million, largely through small donors. He and Scalise also raised much smaller sums through their leadership committees.
They spent their money very differently, with Scalise giving almost all he raised to party allies while Jordan spent large sums on fees associated with digital fundraising.
Jordan gave at least $1 million to the NRCC in the 2022 election cycle and more than $600,000 to other party allies.
He spent more than $6 million on digital consulting and digital ads, powering a small donor fundraising operation in which just over half of revenues came from people giving $200 or less, according to his financial disclosures. By comparison, roughly one in 20 dollars taken in by Scalise’ campaign fundraising came from donors giving $200 or less.
“Colleagues want to be able to see that you can raise funds across the country in tight races and Jim Jordan has repeatedly done that,” said a source familiar with Jordan’s activities who asked not to be identified.
A host of factors, besides fundraising capabilities, will help determine who becomes the next House speaker, and there still was time for candidates to emerge in addition to Jordan and Scalise.
Stances on legislative initiatives various Republican members are pushing, as well as potential requests for changes to rules governing some House procedures could play a role.
But in any type of election at the federal level, money matters. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi collected over $1 billion during her time in House Democratic leadership from 2002-2022, her office said last year.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Jason Lange; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)