Impeachment has become a gold mine — turning even some rank-and-file lawmakers into fundraising juggernauts as they took starring roles in prosecuting or defending President Donald Trump.
A number of Democrats and Republicans who sit on the key committees investigating Trump saw their war chests flooded with cash — and their national profiles raised — during the months-long impeachment fight, which has consumed Washington and dominated headlines since September.
And there is real evidence that impeachment played a role in the fundraising boom, at least for Republicans. Donation pages for WinRed — the GOP’s online fundraising tool — that included the word “impeach” or “impeachment” raised 300 percent more than pages that did not, according to a source familiar with the fundraising platform’s operations.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who himself has been catapulted from the back benches of Congress to Trump’s Twitter feed through his role defending the president during impeachment, compared the uptick in energy and fundraising dollars to the bitter confirmation fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
“People were motivated to get off the sidelines and participate and help make a difference,” Zeldin said. “And that’s nothing compared to how fired up supporters of the president are right now.”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) are accustomed to massive fundraising numbers, but they raked in even more money than usual for their reelection campaigns during the last three months of 2019.
And even some lesser-known lawmakers such as Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) posted record-breaking fundraising hauls after seizing the impeachment spotlight — a sign that the bases are fired up by impeachment, according to lawmakers, aides and strategists.
“In Congress, and this media and political environment, you can create a fundraising boom from a moment,” said Doug Heye, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “Their name ID exploded. Now they are the face of fighting impeachment — or fighting for impeachment.”
The House Intelligence Committee usually conducts its proceedings behind closed doors, but that changed last fall when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tapped the panel to lead the Democrats’ Ukraine investigation and host a series of televised impeachment hearings.
The move instantly elevated committee members to the national stage, with Stefanik chief among them. She quickly earned plaudits from conservatives for her tough grilling of impeachment witnesses and fiery defenses of Trump, cementing her newfound star status on the right.
The three-term lawmaker raised a whopping $3.2 million in the last three months of 2019 — up from over $450,000 the previous quarter. Stefanik even brought in more money than Schiff, a chairman and Pelosi ally, and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a fundraising powerhouse on the left.
Stefanik’s campaign attributes the eye-popping haul, at least in part, to WinRed, the GOP’s answer to Democrats’ ActBlue. The platform enables small online donations, making it easier for candidates to funnel grassroots energy into big dollar signs. Stefanik was one of the top beneficiaries: she was the sixth highest recipient of WinRed donations in the last six months of 2019, lagging behind only Trump’s campaign, the GOP campaign committees and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Stefanik, who raked in donations from across all 50 states, was the second highest fundraiser of all House candidates and incumbents after House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). Schiff and Nunes took the third and fifth spots, respectively, according to a review of recent quarterly campaign finance filings.
The attention on Stefanik — whom Trump also selected to serve as one of his impeachment surrogates during the Senate trial — does have some drawbacks. She’s now a target on the left; the sixth-highest House fundraiser last quarter was her opponent Tedra Cobb, who is running again after losing in 2018. She raised over $2 million.
The race will likely be an expensive one, though the district has taken a sharp turn to the right in recent years. Trump won it by 14 points in 2016, and Stefanik is heavily favored to win reelection.
“I was overwhelmed by the historic level of support I received in Q4 from my constituents in the North Country and from Americans across the nation who were stunned by Adam Schiff’s utter mishandling of the impeachment charade in the House Intelligence Committee,” Stefanik said in a statement.
Schiff, already a prolific fundraiser, has also padded his bank account. One of seven House impeachment managers in the Senate trial, Schiff was the top Democratic congressional fundraiser this quarter, surpassing even Ocasio-Cortez and Pelosi with a haul of over $2.5 million. That’s up from an already impressive $1.2 million in the third quarter.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Schiff, the top members on the Intelligence Committee, both saw a huge uptick in their quarterly fundraising in early 2018 after their panel oversaw a divisive investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — an early sign that small-dollar donors were eager to reward members who took high-profile roles defending or attacking Trump.
Nunes saw his quarterly fundraising total spike from $282,000 in the last quarter of 2017 to a whopping $1.2 million in the first three months of 2018. It hasn’t slowed pace. He’s raised at least that much every fundraising quarter since.
Schiff saw a similarly timed bump. He raised about $750,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017 and saw that number nearly double to $1.3 million in the first quarter of 2018.
More House Republicans than Democrats seem to have experienced an impeachment-related fundraising jolt. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), for example, saw middling fundraising, of around $200,000 for the past two quarters — even as he faces a primary threat.
But Collins, the top Republican on the committee who recently announced a Senate bid, pulled in over $730,000 during the same period — more than twice his third-quarter total.
Some of Trump’s other fiercest defenders in the House have also seen a boost in their campaign coffers during the bitter impeachment fight. Jordan, a Judiciary Committee member who was temporarily moved to the Intelligence panel for the public hearings, brought in nearly $1.4 million. That’s a new all-time high for Jordan, who came to Congress in 2007 and co-founded the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
On the Democratic side, Reps. Val Demings (Fla.) and Eric Swalwell (Calif.), who both sit on Judiciary, saw modest increases in their late 2019 numbers. Demings, who also serves on House Intelligence and was picked by Pelosi to be an impeachment manager, more than doubled her third-quarter total while Swalwell cleared $300,000.
And Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, another Intel member, nearly doubled his fourth quarter fundraising haul to $534,000. The New York Democrat represents a Trump-won district and likely faces a competitive re-election race this fall, which might explain the fundraising push. But he also had a viral moment tearing into one of the impeachment witnesses for amending his earlier testimony, which earned Maloney some laughter and applause from the audience.
"There's a whole bunch of stuff you don’t recall," Maloney said to Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the European Union at the center of the Ukraine saga. "So all due respect, sir, we appreciate your candor, but let's be really clear on what it took to get it out of you."