BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — If you take a quick look at the fundraising numbers for some of the House’s most powerful members – the figures in the millions to tens of millions are staggering. Take a closer look and you’ll see there’s one name that consistently tops the chart.
This election cycle every headline reads the same: Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy has shattered fundraising records, mostly his own. McCarthy’s team did not respond to multiple requests for comment on his fundraising efforts but federal election data shows his personal campaign committee brought in more than $21 million in just the last 18 months.
“A lot of candidates are too shy and don’t want to ask, but Kevin McCarthy is willing to ask,” Republican political analyst Cathy Abernathy said.
As McCarthy has become one of the most powerful lawmakers in America, he’s also become one of the most effective fundraisers ever on Capitol Hill. In fact, some say it’s a key to his success.
“Kevin McCarthy is a magnificent fundraiser. Some might argue that part of the reason he’s in the position he’s in in the House is simply because he’s so good at fundraising,” Republican strategist John Thomas said.
Thomas has worked on GOP House races across the country. He explains we often think of political donors as lobbyist groups or special interest groups. But Thomas says it’s often contributions from individuals that make a difference. And bringing in those donations, he says, is the ultimate campaign strategy.
“Some candidates, I mean, have this down to an absolute science, where you can see them taking public positions that they know, will get them on Rachel Maddow, and then they will take the clip, put it on their email system and raise a couple $100,000,” Thomas said.
For McCarthy, it’s been an eventful 18 months – and the funds have been pouring in. According to the donations McCarthy has filed with the Federal Elections Commission – McCarthy’s personal campaign committee ‘Kevin McCarthy for Congress’ brings in thousands from individual donors every day.
Those contributions are often tied to his most outspoken days in Washington.
We looked at the contributions filed under the category ‘individual’ McCarthy’s campaign committee recorded bringing in every day this election cycle.
In January 2021, McCarthy had three days in which his contributions from individuals peaked.
On Jan. 5, McCarthy’s committee recorded bringing in more than it did on the first, second, third and fourth days of the month in total – following a speech he gave criticizing Democrats for their new rules in the House.
“The same socialist ideas have found their way onto the floor and into the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, which will shape every law this chamber tries to make in the next two years,” McCarthy said on the floor.
Funds spiked again on Jan. 15, the day after McCarthy said he did not support ousting GOP Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her Republican leadership role for her vote to impeach former President Trump.
On Jan. 22, funds from individual donations shot up about $18,000 from the day before. The increase followed a press conference in which McCarthy said he did not believe former President Donald Trump provoked the Capitol attack.
“I don’t believe he provoked if you listen to what he said at the rally,” McCarthy said at the time.
Late at night on Feb. 12, 2021 came the news of McCarthy and Trump’s expletive filled phone call on Jan. 6, when McCarthy said he told Trump to call off the riot. GOP colleagues said it led to a shouting match.
“And the President’s response to Kevin to me was chilling, he said ‘Well Kevin I guess these people are just more upset about the election theft than you are,'” Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) said.
The next day, McCarthy’s individual funds dipped by about $25,000.
In May 2021, one single day encompassed 20% of his individual donations for the whole month. That day was the 12th when he brought in more than $174,000 after successfully holding a vote to oust Cheney (R-WY) from her GOP leadership role after her vote to impeach former President Trump.
In July 2021, McCarthy brought in more than $25,000 more from individuals on the 12th than any other day that month. That day he posted a video on Twitter criticizing critical race theory.
“Critical race theory goes against everything Martin Luther King has ever told us,” McCarthy said in a video he posted on Twitter.
The next big month came in November 2021 when McCarthy’s committee recorded more than $50,000 from individuals on the 19th, a $40,000 increase from the day before.
“When inflation is at a 31% hike. Gas prices. Thanksgiving. A border that in a few months breaks every record.”
That was after McCarthy gave an over eight-hour speech on the House floor to stall Democrats from passing President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ Act.
In January 2022, McCarthy’s committee recorded individual donations peaked during two parts of the month.
On Jan. 12, the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol sent a letter to McCarthy requesting he come in for an interview. Late that night, McCarthy declined and brought in over $120,000 over the next three days.
“Maybe if Nancy Pelosi had done what other speakers would do and not play politics with it, it could have been a different answer,” McCarthy said about his decision to decline.
On the 25th, fundraising more than doubled, after the Supreme Court declined to take his case to end proxy voting in the House.
On Feb. 4, 2022 McCarthy’s individual donations rose $20,000 from the day before. That was when McCarthy said on Fox News, Republican representatives and staunch Trump critics Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) would have a hard time ever returning to Congress after the Republican National Committee voted to censure the pair.
On Feb. 28, his individual funds tripled from the day before. That day, McCarthy posted to Twitter a video he coined the “Real State of the Union.”
He also condemned Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) for attending an event with ties to a White nationalist.
April 2022 was a month McCarthy took center stage in Washington news.
In late April, The New York Times released recordings of McCarthy on phone calls with top GOP lawmakers in the days after Jan. 6, in which McCarthy sternly criticized former President Trump’s handling of the Capitol attack.
“I’ve had it with this guy, what he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that and nobody should defend it,” McCarthy said in one recording.
McCarthy’s most lucrative day this month was April 27, when his committee brought in more than $80,000 in individual donations. That was the first day the full Republican caucus was back together since the release of the tapes, in which GOP colleagues say McCarthy received a standing ovation after explaining his comments in the recordings.
It’s another part of McCarthy’s campaign finance portfolio that strategists, analysts and even other lawmakers say is what makes his money so influential.
“Other candidates that may win their primaries or may have very tight races, if Kevin McCarthy is able to give them some extra money that may allow them to stay in office or win office, of course they’re going to be appreciative of Kevin when it comes time,” Thomas said.
McCarthy’s ability to raise and donate funds even earned him the title of ‘the LeBron James of lobbyist and PAC fundraising’ by one GOP lawmaker. In an interview with Time Magazine Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) called McCarthy the most elite fundraiser in the history of the Republican caucus adding quote “that is his covenant with the conference.”
Democratic Analyst Neel Sannappa says if McCarthy faced a tight race here at home in his district, he would have less money to spread around the GOP, noting that could happen if a challenger were able to get 42% of the vote.
“Because once we get to that point, then McCarthy is having to spend money, having to do media buys here, having to send more mail here, and having to hire canvassers to go knock on doors for him,” Sannappa said.
According to his team, McCarthy has five fundraising entities, including a personal leadership PAC Majority Committee PAC.
“Originally the intention was that leadership PACs would be for a candidate to fundraise to support other candidates of their political party,” Saurav Ghosh Director of Federal Campaign Finance Reform at Campaign Legal Center said.
These PACs are limited to donating $5,000 per election, $10,000 in total when you add the funds for primary and general races.
On Feb. 7, 2022 McCarthy’s Majority Committee PAC donated the maximum $10,000 to the committee of GOP Representative Madison Cawthorn.
The donation came in the middle of a legal battle in which a group of North Carolina voters argued Cawthorn was ineligible to run for office because he engaged in an insurrection when he spoke at Trump’s rally on Jan. 6.
“My friends, the Democrats with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans hiding and not fighting — they are trying to silence your voice,” Cawthorn said.
On May 24, 2022 McCarthy’s PAC gave the maximum to GOP Representative Majorie Tayor Greene on the day of her primary in Georgia.
McCarthy’s PAC also maxed out donating to conservative House members Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, the two members McCarthy picked to sit on the January 6 panel that Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected.
In March 2022, McCarthy’s PAC gave to Harriet Hageman, the Republican candidate who has the backing of Trump and is seeking to oust Cheney from Wyoming’s only House seat.
But McCarthy’s PAC donations have also strayed from Trump’s picks.
In March, McCarthy’s PAC gave to Nancy Mace, the South Carolina House incumbent who Trump actively campaigned against. And in May, it gave to Peter Meijer, the Michigan Representative who voted to impeach Trump.
As mentioned earlier in this story, we reached out to McCarthy’s office for a comment about his fundraising but did not hear back.
As November’s midterm election quickly approaches and the GOP gets closer to its chance of taking back control of the House, McCarthy’s funds are only expected to increasingly pour in and strategically flow out.