As speaker, Kevin McCarthy had effective control of NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund. At WP, Michael Scherer reports on what comes next.
CLF, the centerpiece of House Republican efforts, has grown increasingly dependent on just a few donors in recent years, mostly billionaires who are driven to give more for ideological reasons. The group raised at least $88.5 million last cycle from just eight families and millions more from McCarthy’s own California donors. After McCarthy was toppled, the NRCC announced it was postponing a fall gala event next week in Dallas.
“The happiest people in Washington this week are the people at the DCCC and House Majority PAC who just saw the number one fundraiser in the Republican field taken off the field,” said Mike Shields, a McCarthy ally and campaign strategist who previously ran CLF and worked as political director of the NRCC, referring to two pro-Democratic committees.
Groups connected to McCarthy spent millions to defend incumbents against far-right challengers in primaries, sometimes using spending vehicles that were designed to conceal the identity of donors. They also weeded out Republican candidates that they thought did not belong in Washington, even if they could have won office.
McCarthy allies were involved in 2022 in raising money for a group called Results for N.C. that helped to defeat one of McCarthy’s own members, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), after the freshman lawmaker infuriated his colleagues by talking on a podcast about seeing cocaine use in Washington and being invited to sex parties.
Other groups, with names like American Liberty Action and the Eighteen Fifty-Four Fund, were deployed to take out the primary campaigns of Anthony Sabatini, a Florida friend of Rep. Matt Gaetz, and former New York state party chair Carl Paladino, who suggested in a 2021 social media post that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler is “the kind of leader we need today.”
CLF, under the guidance of McCarthy’s team, intervened in a Florida primary to help defeat Laura Loomer, a political activist who has described herself as being “pro-white nationalism” and a “proud Islamophobe.” CLF also spent heavily, through vehicles that were difficult to track, in a failed effort to defend Rep. Jamie Herrera-Beutler (R-Wash.), a supporter of former president Donald Trump’s second impeachment. After she lost, Democrats were able to pick up the seat on the southern Washington state border.