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    The GOP's Seeds of Power

    By Dwight L. Morris
    June 24, 1996

    While much has been written about the political empire established by Newt Gingrich during his drive to wrest control of the House from the Democrats in 1994, most of that prose has been dedicated to his tenure as head of GOPAC, a political action committee established to nurture Republican candidates at the local, state and federal levels. By now, politically aware readers are also quite familiar with both the college course Gingrich continued to teach until his ascendancy to the house speakership and the fund-raising and ethical controversies that surrounded it.

    However, very little ink or air time has been invested in explaining the pivotal role Gingrich's own campaign operation played in his drive to power. The efforts of those who currently serve as his chief lieutenants in the House – funded largely through their respective campaign committees – have received even less attention.

    During the 1990 campaign, when control of the House was but a distant dream and Gingrich was locked in a heated battle to hold his own seat – a fight he won by just 974 votes – he donated $49,968 of his own campaign treasury to other Republican candidates and party committees, including $44,990 to House candidates from other states. That modest investment in the future of the Republicans party accounted for just 3 percent of his total campaign outlays. Two years later, Gingrich survived the Republican primary by only 980 votes, and with his attention focused entirely on his own political future, he donated just $5,025 of his campaign funds to other candidates and party committees.

    By 1994, the world – and Gingrich's place in it – had changed dramatically. Throughout much of that two-year election cycle, he was far more concerned with electing a new Republican House majority than with his own campaign. During 1993, he tapped his campaign committee to pay Joseph Gaylord, his long-time political advisor, $97,111 for laying the foundation for what became the Contract with America. In 1994, Gaylord collected $82,355 from Gingrich's campaign committee and $131,000 from GOPAC, largely for refining the Contract and writing candidate training materials.

    In hopes of claming the title of house speaker, Gingrich donated $128,000 from his campaign committee to Republican House candidates across the country, virtually all of it to challengers and those contesting open seats. He also donated $16,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

    Gingrich got plenty of help from his Republican colleagues in the House. Texas Rep. Dick Armey, now Majority Leader, donated a total of $114,291 of his campaign treasury to 130 challengers and open-seat candidates, 71 of whom won. Twenty-four Republican House incumbents received checks from Armey's campaign committee totaling $23,975. Armey also donated $29,500 to the NRCC, $1,725 to various local party committees, and $1,000 to then-Rep. Rick Santorum's successful Senate campaign. In all, Armey's political philanthropy accounted for 19 percent of the $900,876 he spent during 1993 and 1994.

    Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston, who was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee following the Republican takeover, donated $145,000 of his campaign treasury to other Republican candidates and party committees in October 1994 alone. His committee sent $1,000 checks to 130 candidates, only 23 of whom were incumbents. He gave $15,000 to the NRCC that month, stipulating that it be allocated as follows: $5,000 to Texas races; $4,000 to California contests; $2,000 to Michigan; and $1,000 each to Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and the general fund. Following the election he sent $1,000 checks to recount funds in three districts. Over the course of the two-year cycle he gave another $10,000 to the NRCC and $1,000 to Pennsylvania Rep. Joseph McDade's legal defense fund.

    Sixty-two winning challengers and open-seat contestants received checks totaling $83,000 from Texas Rep. Tom DeLay's campaign committee. DeLay donated $28,900 to losing challengers and open-seat candidates, $21,000 to fellow Republican incumbents, $10,000 to the NRCC and $5,000 to the Republican Party in Tennessee, where two crucial Senate seats were up for grabs. DeLay easily won the post of Majority Whip in the 104th Congress.

    Elected in 1990, Ohio Rep. John A. Boehner moved immediately to align himself with Gingrich, and, after securing 74 percent of the vote in 1992, Boehner found himself unopposed in 1994. That left him free to help Gingrich capture the House. Over the two-year cycle, Boehner pumped $214,945 from his own campaign into the fight, accounting for 31 percent of his total spending. No House incumbent – Republican or Democrat – gave more to other candidates and party committees.

    Boehner gave $110,750 to challengers and open-seat candidates, $14,000 to House incumbents, $4,000 to House candidates, $55,000 to the NRCC, and $31,195 to various state and local party committees. In recognition of his devotion to the conservative cause, he was elected chairman of the Republican Conference.

    Unopposed in both the Republican primary and the November general election, Rep. Bill McCollum also dedicated himself to electing a new Republican House majority in 1994. Between October 1 and October 20, his campaign's operating expenses totaled just $4,400. During that same period he sent $1,000 checks to forty-two Republican hopefuls across the country, twenty-six of whom won. Between October 20 and November 28, he spent $16,648 to maintain his own campaign and gave $105,500 to other House candidates, including checks for $500 sent to seventy-one newly elected members two days after the election. In all, McCollum donated $154,500 to Republican challengers and open-seat candidates. He gave $15,000 to the NRCC.

    Together, this leadership group tapped their campaign treasuries for $1,043,281 to aide Republican party committees and like-minded House candidates across the country. That sum was nicely augmented by a $2,755,213 infusion from the campaign treasury of other Republican incumbents. Given the relatively negative view of their performance voiced by a majority of voters in survey after survey, this $3,798,494 effort will probably have to be matched or exceeded in 1996 if control of the House is to be maintained.

    This article originally appeared on the PoliticsNow Web site.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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