WASHINGTON -- In the first six months of their tenure, new House committee chairmen have seen their campaign contributions increase by 59 percent from the first half of 2011.
According to an analysis of Federal Election Commission reports, seven of eight newly installed House committee chairmen saw a significant increase in campaign contributions to their principal campaign committee. These increases far outpaced the rise in contributions to the 11 continuing committee chairs, who saw a combined 3 percent increase in first-half contributions from the same time period in 2011.
Committee chairs are among the most powerful positions a congressman can hold to affect policy and to increase personal stature. They are also hotbeds for fundraising, and not just because companies, lobbyists and other interests give money for access to chairmen working on their issues. Chairmen are expected, and even pressured, to raise increasing sums of money to help fund their political party's efforts to maintain a majority.
"As a rule, becoming a committee chairman is a fundraising bonanza," said Sunlight Foundation senior fellow Lee Drutman, who has studied the effects of committee appointments on fundraising. "There's good reason for that, because the committee chairman gets to decide what legislation the committee hears and votes on and which legislation languishes."
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), appointed to lead the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this year, saw the largest increase in fundraising from the same time period two years ago. The seven-term congressman had raised $1.2 million at the end of June 2013, up 412 percent from the $235,000 Shuster raised through the first six months of 2011.
The uptick in fundraising for Shuster, along with a few other new chairmen, was heavily driven by contributions from interests before his committee. Airlines, trucking companies, oil and gas pipelines, builders, engineers, architects, contractors, lobbyists and other companies, unions and trade groups accounted for over 75 percent of the contributions Shuster received in the first half of this year.
"Congressman Shuster is appreciative of the support that he has received," Shuster campaign manager Sean Joyce said in a statement. "His focus has been and will continue to be on addressing the needs of Pennsylvania's 9th Congressional District, and the critical infrastructure needs of the nation as a whole."
New Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has also seen a substantial increase, 67 percent, in fundraising in the past six months, with $1.35 million in 2013, as compared to $826,050 raised over the same time period in 2011.
As with Shuster, Hensarling's big contribution boost has come from donors with business before the Financial Services Committee. These include community banks, credit unions, pawn shops, payday lenders, prepaid card providers, mortgage servicers, reverse mortgage providers and builders and sellers of modular housing.
Nearly all of these companies share one thing in common: regulations and oversight by the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Hensarling has been the CFPB's chief antagonist since taking the gavel of the Financial Services Committee, going so far as to ban CFPB Director Richard Cordray from testifying before the committee because he was a recess appointment of President Barack Obama's. (Cordray has since been confirmed by the Senate.)
Hensarling's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the new Homeland Security Committee chairman, saw a 57 percent increase in contributions since he took the committee gavel. McCaul has raised $514,283 in the first half of 2013, more than the $328,348 he raised over the same time in 2011.
Companies with business before the Homeland Security Committee, including those in telecommunications, defense, airports, airlines, private prisons, computer systems and drugs to counter biological attacks, made up 44 percent of the contributions to McCaul's 2013 haul.
A spokesman for McCaul's congressional office declined to comment.
Four other new House committee chairs saw significant fundraising increases, as well. Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) saw an increase of 64 percent in his contributions; Committee on House Administration Chairman Candice Miller (R-Mich.) saw her contributions go up by 48 percent; and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) received a 42 percent bump. New Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) increased his contributions by 43 percent, although Royce also sits on the Financial Services Committee, which is known as a prime spot for fundraising.
The only new committee chairman to see his fundraising fortunes fall is new Space, Science and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). Smith's fundraising dropped by 42 percent, but this is likely due more to his relinquishing of the Judiciary Committee's gavel to take the chair of a less powerful committee.
The Republican Party limits the terms of committee chairmen in both the House and the Senate to six years or three Congresses. (The Democratic Party abides by no such limits.) House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is the only Republican committee chairman who has received a waiver to occupy his committee's top seat beyond his limit.
One's status as a big-money fundraiser ends for many congressmen once they cease to hold a committee gavel. All of the committee chairmen who were replaced at the beginning of the 113th Congress have seen their contributions decline.
None more so than Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who occupied the Financial Services Committee chair prior to Hensarling. Bachus had already raised $525,999 through the first six months of 2011, but at the end of June 2013 had only brought in $237,385, a drop of 55 percent.
Only one continuing committee chairman saw an increase in contributions on par with the new chairmen. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has seen a 108 percent increase in contributions in the first half of 2013 as compared to the first half of 2011.
USA Today reported that Issa's boost in contributions has occurred because of attention he's received for leading the investigation into the IRS' political targeting scandal. Contributions poured into Issa's campaign from April through June, jumping in these three months to $737,109, up from $291,527 through the first three months of the year.
Issa's big fundraising jump came in no small part through contributions from small donors. Contributors giving less than $200 accounted for $269,111 of Issa's first-half haul. No other committee chairman, save for Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), raised more than $50,000 from small donors in the first half of 2013.