Known more for being a policy wonk than a fund raiser when he took the job, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) has shown to be surprisingly adept at the latter. Yet, in the year and a half Ryan’s been the House’s top Republican leader, he has proven to be quite the fund raiser; much of it in the name of maintaining his majority.
That was highlighted on Monday night when his political operation, nicknamed “Team Ryan” announced it would be ending the first three months of 2017 with a record $7 million in transfers to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC); the political arm of the House GOP. This amount surpassed the previous record of $6.3 million Ryan and his team had set in March of 2016.
“A year and a half ago, Paul Ryan became speaker with virtually no political infrastructure. Since then, he has established a national political operation that can be put up against anyone else,” Kevin Seifert, executive director for Team Ryan, said in a statement. “Team Ryan was built around the Speaker’s focus on policy and his ability to articulate a positive, conservative vision for America.
“This remains the focus and in the early part of 2017, Ryan has been humbled by the interest in the Republican agenda – to enact bold reforms and get our country back-on-track.”
Since being named Speaker in 2015, Ryan has either made similar transfers from his individual campaign committee accounts, his political action committee (PAC), or helped the NRCC fund raise over $60 million.
But in addition to all that, it was announced on Tuesday morning that Ryan had donated heavily from his personal congressional campaign account. Politico reported the Speaker had cut checks totaling $1.2 million to 140 members of the House Republican Conference. A move that essentially shows every member either being targeted; or potentially targeted in the 2018 midterms, he has their back.
Ryan has already transferred millions of dollars to the party’s re-election arm (more below), but now the speaker is cutting checks directly to lawmakers’ campaign committees — a move that underscores his newfound brand as a top Republican money man. The donations are going to virtually every House Republican being targeted by Democrats, and conservatives and moderates alike. Members of the House found out about the Ryan largesse when Kevin Seifert, Ryan’s political director, emailed chiefs of staff, telling them a check was waiting at the RNC for pickup this morning. THIS IS IMPORTANT: Members of leadership usually either cut checks to the party committee, or directly to members. Ryan is doing both as he tries to keep the House in GOP hands in 2018.
Whether this pays off in 2018 and the Republicans maintain their House majority remains to be seen. Currently, all political focus is on special elections in four House seats throughout the country in the coming weeks. Each of these seats’ previous occupants; Tom Price (GA-06), Mick Mulvaney (SC-05), Mike Pompeo (KS-04), and Ryan Zinke (MT-At Large), became members of the Trump Cabinet.
Ryan’s influx of cash to the NRCC could come just in the nick of time for the race in Georgia when it comes to voter turnout efforts. While the district leans Republican, a GOP-heavy primary field – along with the state’s arcane election rules – could give the lone Democrat running for the seat, Jon Ossoff, a shot at winning it outright during the April 18 primary election. If no candidate gets 50 percent or more on primary, the top-two finishers move on to a runoff. In early polling, Ossoff looked like he could hit that margin thanks to splintered GOP field. Much more recent polling has shown him sliding.
With a president’s party traditionally taking it on the chin in the midterms after his election to the White House, by flexing his fund raising muscle early, Paul Ryan is indicating he will not go gently into the 2018 midterms without being prepared. Will this preparation be enough to ensure he maintains the Speaker’s gavel in 2019?
Time will tell.