Rep. Kevin McCarthy‘s (R-CA) stunning ouster as speaker has stripped House Republicans of their most prolific fundraiser and set off uncertainty over whether his successor will amass enough donations to win Congress in 2024.
The voting out of McCarthy, a historic congressional spectacle that culminated in Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and seven Republicans joining Democrats in the leadership rebuke, plunged the GOP conference into chaos and raised the likelihood of a government shutdown. Now, the Right is grappling with the aftermath of kicking out their high-powered speaker fundraiser, who transferred $20 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee and routinely cut checks to lawmakers, including those who voted to remove him.
“A lot of these folks showed their true colors,” Republican strategist Stephen Lawson told the Washington Examiner. “They stabbed McCarthy in the back.”
Beyond the NRCC, which helps to elect GOP members of Congress, McCarthy’s campaign and leadership PAC have steered at least $160,000 since 2015 to members who voted to oust him, according to campaign finance disclosures. These members include Gaetz, as well as Reps. Nancy Mace (R-SC), Eli Crane (R-AZ), Tim Burchett (R-TN), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Ken Buck (R-CO), and Bob Good (R-VA).
And just last week, McCarthy said in an announcement he would be giving $2.5 million to the NRCC while telling GOP lawmakers in a closed-door meeting he’d dish out the same amount to Protect the House 2024, his joint fundraising committee.
The former speaker, who has sometimes been referred to as the “campaigner-in-chief” for Republicans, was described by a senior congressional aide to the Washington Examiner as a “master” and “constant tactician” in recruiting donors. Meanwhile, it’s frankly “unrealistic” to expect McCarthy’s successor will be able to “replicate” his fundraising abilities, said the aide, who is not authorized to speak publicly.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) are running for speaker, and have been harvesting endorsements from dozens of members, while Republican Study Committee head Kevin Hern (R-OK) is mulling a bid. Jordan so far leads the way with announced support.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Jordan on social media early Friday morning, noting he’s “STRONG on Crime, Borders, our Military/Vets, & 2nd Amendment.” McCarthy aides have reportedly been making calls to boost Jordan’s bid.
“I have a great deal of admiration and respect for the leader of our party, Donald J. Trump, and having in-depth conversations with him yesterday, talking about this potential speaker’s race, and who seems to be building that support to get to 218,” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX), who backs Jordan, told the Washington Examiner. “It just seems like right now, Jim Jordan is building that support. Donald Trump made it very clear to me he was going to endorse Jim Jordan.”
Biggs, whose bucking of McCarthy comes after he unsuccessfully challenged him last year for speaker, “will support the most conservative member who can obtain 218 votes as speaker,” Matthew Tragesser, a spokesman for Biggs, told the Washington Examiner. The Arizona Republican took contributions between 2016 and 2020 from McCarthy’s leadership PAC, records show.
Spokeswoman Rachel Partlow for Burchett said the congressman “has not endorsed anyone for speaker as of yet,” and she is “unsure if he plans to before the vote.”
On Tuesday, Republicans will convene to discuss the speakership and cast votes the following day. The forum will be headed by Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC), speaker pro tempore in the interim.
House Republicans have been holding numerous conversations since McCarthy was ousted to best understand how they can effectively fundraise heading into 2024, according to sources familiar. One notable development on Tuesday: the NRCC postponed its Oct. 12 gala in Dallas, which McCarthy was going to headline. The event would have hauled large sums at a critical juncture near 2024 for the GOP. Ticket packages were listed between $2,500 to $50,000.
“McCarthy takes a very hands-on approach to recruiting candidates and then guides them through the whole process,” a senior Republican strategist told the Washington Examiner. “He checks in with people, he guides people. He goes to their district and fundraises for them. He’s not just hosting D.C. fundraisers. He flies around the country, and he really puts in a lot of work.”
A second consultant, who is allied with Trump, echoed this sentiment about McCarthy. “Kevin McCarthy isn’t just your typical good fundraiser because he was a Republican leader and then speaker of the House,” they said. “He’s known to be an all-time legendary fundraiser, like on a different level than John Boehner and Paul Ryan.”
“Whoever becomes speaker will obviously raise a lot of money,” the person added. “You’re going to raise a lot by nature of having that job. But I don’t think anyone is going to be able to match Kevin as far as fundraising goes.”
On Friday morning, Scalise sent a memo to donors touting how in the last decade he “has raised nearly $170 million to help Republicans win elections,” whereas Jordan’s haul is close to $40 million. Jordan spokesman Russell Dye told the Washington Examiner they are “very confident, always,” when reached over the phone on Friday on the speaker race.
“Scalise is focused on protecting and growing the House Republican majority,” said a political aide for Scalise.
Adding to the further drama surrounding the speaker debacle, a Monday televised event through Fox News for speaker hopefuls to debate fell apart on Friday. For McCarthy’s part, the ex-speaker batted down reports he may resign from the House before his term concludes, saying Friday, “I’m staying, so don’t worry.”
McCarthy’s office did not return a request for additional comment.