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Fundraising surged for Republicans who sought to overturn the election

Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas (left) and Josh Hawley of Missouri each brought in more than $3 million in campaign donations in the three months that followed the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas (left) and Josh Hawley of Missouri each brought in more than $3 million in campaign donations in the three months that followed the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.Susan Walsh/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Republicans who were the most vocal in urging their followers to come to Washington on Jan. 6 to try to reverse President Donald Trump’s loss, pushing to overturn the election and stoking the grievances that prompted the deadly Capitol riot, have profited handsomely in its aftermath, according to new campaign data.

Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, who led the challenges to President Joe Biden’s victory in their chamber, each brought in more than $3 million in campaign donations in the three months that followed the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., who called the rampage a “1776 moment” and was later stripped of committee assignments for espousing bigoted conspiracy theories and endorsing political violence, raised $3.2 million — substantially more than Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the minority leader, and nearly every other member of House leadership.

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A New York Times analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission disclosures illustrates how the leaders of the effort to overturn Biden’s electoral victory have capitalized on the outrage of their supporters to collect huge sums of campaign cash. Far from being punished for encouraging the protest that turned lethal, they have thrived in a system that often rewards the loudest and most extreme voices, using the fury around the riot to build their political brands.

“The outrage machine is powerful at inducing political contributions,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Florida.

Shortly after the storming of the Capitol, some prominent corporations and political action committees vowed to cut off support for the Republicans who had fanned the flames of anger and conspiracy that resulted in violence. But any financial blowback from corporate America appears to have been dwarfed by a flood of cash from other quarters.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, a freshman who urged his supporters to “lightly threaten” Republican lawmakers to goad them into challenging the election results, pulled in more than $1 million. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who like Greene compared Jan. 6 to the American Revolution, took in nearly $750,000.

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The sums reflect an emerging incentive structure in Washington, where the biggest provocateurs can parlay their notoriety into small-donor successes that can help them amass an even higher profile. It also illustrates the appetites of a Republican base of voters who have bought into Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud and are eager to reward those who worked to undermine the outcome of a free and fair election.

Most of the dozens of corporations that pledged to cut off any Republican who supported overturning the election kept that promise, withholding political action committee donations during the most recent quarter. But for the loudest voices on Capitol Hill, that did not matter, as an energized base of pro-Trump donors rallied to their side and more than made up the shortfall.

“We’re really seeing the emergence of small donors in the Republican Party,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist. “In the past, Democrats have been the ones who have benefited most from small-dollar donations. We’re seeing the Republicans rapidly catching up.”

Lawmakers have long benefited richly from divisive news coverage, especially around prominent events that play to the emotions of an enraged or fearful voter base. But the new filings illustrate a growing chasm between those who raise money through a bombastic profile — often bolstered by significant fundraising expenditures — and those who have focused their attentions on serious policy work.

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As provocative freshmen like Greene, Boebert and Cawthorn took in high-dollar figures, other more conventional members of their class in competitive districts — even those praised for their fundraising prowess — were substantially behind.

For instance, Reps. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, and Young Kim, R-Calif., both of whom opposed the electoral challenges and have worked on bipartisan bills, each took in less than $600,000.

Greene, Boebert and Cawthorn raised more money than the top Republicans on the most powerful committees in Congress, such as appropriations, budget, education and labor, foreign affairs and homeland security.

In many cases, Republican lawmakers who fanned the flames of the Jan. 6 violence have since benefited by casting themselves as victims of a political backlash engineered by the Washington establishment, and appealed to their supporters.

“Pennsylvania wasn’t following their own state’s election law, but the establishment didn’t want to hear it. But that’s not who I work for,” Hawley wrote in January in a fundraising message. “I objected because I wanted to make sure your voice was heard. Now, Biden and his woke mob are coming after me. I need your help.”

Greene raised money off a successful effort to exile her from committees, led by furious Democrats incensed at her past talk in support of executing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and encouraging her followers to “Stop the Steal” on Jan. 6. Setting goals of raising $150,000 each day in the days before and after the unusual vote, she surpassed them every time.

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“The D.C. swamp and the fake news media are attacking me because I am not one of them,” one such solicitation read. “I am one of you. And they hate me for it.”

But the polarizing nature of Trump also helped some Republicans who took him to task for his behavior surrounding the events of Jan. 6.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, who voted to impeach Trump, took in $1.5 million, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who has started an organization to lead the Republican Party away from fealty to Trump, raised more than $1.1 million.

“It’s obvious that there’s a strong market for Trumpism in the Republican base,” Curbelo said. “There is also a strong market for truth-telling and supporting the Constitution.”

Conant questioned how much of the fundraising surge for some candidates was directly tied to the Capitol assault, which he said the conservative news media had generally “moved on” from covering.

Instead, he said that Republican voters were “very nervous” about the direction of the country under Democratic control and were eager to support Republicans they viewed as fighting a liberal agenda.

“It pays to be high-profile,” Conant said. “It’s more evidence that there’s not a lot of grassroots support for milquetoast middle of the road. It doesn’t mean you have to be pro-Trump. It just means you need to take strong positions, and then connect with those supporters.”

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But if the Republican civil war has paid campaign dividends for fighters on both sides, individual Democrats involved in prosecuting Trump for the riot in his impeachment trial have not reaped a similar windfall.

With her $3.2 million raised this quarter, Greene brought in more money than the combined total raised by all nine impeachment managers — even though they won widespread applause in liberal circles for their case against the former president. Three of the managers have raised less than $100,000 each over the past three months, according to the data.

As money pours into campaigns, the Jan. 6 assault has also resulted in much spending around security precautions.

The Federal Election Commission expanded guidance allowing lawmakers to use campaign contributions to install residential security systems at their homes, and top Capitol Hill security told lawmakers to consider upgrading their home security systems to include panic buttons and key fobs.

Campaign filings show nearly a dozen lawmakers have made payments of $20,000 or more to security companies in the past three months, including Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who voted to convict Trump; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who gave a harrowing account of the riot; and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., one of the impeachment managers.

Cruz and Hawley were also among the biggest spenders on security.