Who knew donors expected a governing party to actually govern? According to Politico, big-ticket contributors to Republicans have closed their wallets in protest after nine months of failure to advance the GOP agenda. The boycott threatens the party’s efforts in the midterms to expand their Senate advantage to filibuster-proof levels, as well as keeping the House majority:
“Anybody who was there knew that I was not happy. And I don’t think anybody was happy. How could you be?” said [Thomas] Wachtell, who has previously given over $2,000 to McConnell but recently stopped donating to Senate GOP causes. “You’re never going to get a more sympathetic Republican than I am. But I’m sick and tired of nothing happening.”
With the GOP’s agenda at a virtual standstill on Capitol Hill, the party is contending with a hard reality. Some of the party’s most elite and influential donors, who spent the past eight years plowing cash into the party’s coffers in hopes of accomplishing a sweeping conservative agenda and undoing Barack Obama’s legislative accomplishments, are closing their wallets.
The backlash is threatening to deprive Republicans of resources just as they’re gearing up for the 2018 midterms. Party officials are so alarmed that North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who oversees fundraising for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told his colleagues at a recent conference meeting that donations had fallen off a cliff after the Obamacare flop. The committee’s haul plummeted to just $2 million in July and August, less than half of what it raised in June.
One can certainly understand the frustration. For seven years, Republicans raised money on the promise to repeal ObamaCare, while knowing for four of those years that a single-action repeal would be nearly impossible. The GOP raised money on the ill-fated 2013 government shutdown too, despite it having zero chance of defunding ObamaCare, which gets most of its operating funds through statute rather than appropriation. For all of the 2016 cycle, Republicans promised that full control of Washington would mean a golden age of conservo-populist governance, only to find out that the party never actually prepared to govern at all.
Disillusion is a serious bummer on campaign contributions, no doubt.
However, one has to ask just how serious this revolt actually is. At least through the end of the summer, the RNC had vastly outperformed the DNC in fundraising:
Despite DNC Chair Tom Perez’s dismissal of the issue, the organization’s fundraising is plummeting under his leadership. In the month of August, the DNC only raised $3.8 million. In contrast, the RNC raised $7.6 million, almost exactly twice as much. The DNC has $4 million worth of debt, whereas the RNC has no debt. Worse yet, the RNC has $45.8 million in cash on hand, and the DNC has just $6.8 million. August is not an anomaly; it’s a sign of a continuing trend. July 2017 was the DNC’s worst fundraising month since January 2009. In June, the DNC didn’t fare much better, and the organization posted fundraising lows in April and May unseen in nearly a decade for those months. Between January and July 2017, the RNC out-raised the DNC in small donations by $12 million, an embarrassment for a party that claims to represent working, middle class, and low income voters.
That’s significant, as it came after the July failure to pass an ObamaCare repeal, at the time considered the last gasp. The campaign committees for Congress have Democrats holding a lead, perhaps thanks mainly to heavy participation in special elections, such as Georgia’s 6th CD. The NRSC has raised $22 million this year through the end of August, compared to $32 million for the DSCC. The DCCC has taken in $67 million, while the NRCC has only gotten $35 million from direct contributions, although they have taken in another $32 million in committee and candidate transfers. (Paul Ryan has clearly been busy.)
At least through the end of August, we see little evidence of a donor revolt — so far, anyway. That doesn’t mean one isn’t coming, and that will put pressure on Republicans to score a win soon on tax reform, at least. Even if one does materialize, though, how long would it last? By 2018, the sales pitch will be the need to keep the House in GOP hands, and the possibilities of scoring a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That’s probably tantalizing enough to keep donors in the game, especially with Democrats going The Full Bernie this cycle on socialized medicine and abortion litmus tests. Voters will get stuck between the two parties, wondering whether to vote Stupid or Evil. As usual.