When House Speaker John Boehner agreed to far-right demands to create a new, select committee on Benghazi, the Ohio Republican probably didn't anticipate questions about fundraising. But as it became increasingly obvious that the latest GOP probe is a partisan stunt, the fact that Republicans are exploiting a terrorist attack for cash became more important.
Asked about the National Republican Congressional Committee's Benghazi-focused appeals, Boehner said
yesterday, "Listen, I'm involved in this investigation; I'm not involved in what goes on at the campaign committee." The Speaker added, "I've got to believe the Democrats are probably fundraising off of Benghazi just like we are.... I don't know what the fundraising arm is doing."
There are a couple of problems with this. The first is that there's no real parallel between the parties -- Democrats aren't the ones launching witch hunts based on discredited conspiracy theories. There's a qualitative difference between raising money "on the backs of four murdered Americans
" and seeking contributions because your rivals are raising money "on the backs of four murdered Americans."
The second, and arguably more important, problem is that Boehner's assertion that he's "not involved in what goes on at the campaign committee" is highly dubious. Derek Willis published an interesting item
two weeks ago, before the Benghazi questions started dogging Republicans.
Some House Republicans may feel they have good reason to oust John Boehner as Speaker next year, but there is at least one good reason not to: fund-raising. Mr. Boehner has been an increasingly important source of money for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party wing that helps the G.O.P. maintain (and increase) its House majority. Beginning in the 2006 election cycle, Mr. Boehner's campaign committee, Friends of John Boehner, has been the single largest source of funds for the N.R.C.C. in every election cycle, and between 2006 and 2012 the amount grew every cycle, finishing with the $10.6 million it sent during the 2011-2012 period, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Over the last several cycles, Boehner has transferred more than $22 million from his campaign to the NRCC -- vastly more than any other official -- and even today
, the campaign committee continues to incorporate the Speaker into its appeals, on top of the events Boehner routinely headlines on the NRCC's behalf.
This isn't to suggest Boehner is personally typing out NRCC fundraising letters or that he directly approved the Benghazi appeals for cash, but for him to argue he's "not involved in what goes on at the campaign committee" is belied by the evidence.
As for why House Republicans don't simply put the questions to rest by agreeing not to exploit another Benghazi investigation for cash, it's likely party leaders believe it's simply too lucrative an opportunity to pass up.
Ari Rabin-Havt had a good piece
over the weekend using House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) as a case study.
For most of his career, Issa was a lackluster fundraiser. But through the first five quarters of the 2014 election cycle, his campaign committee has raised $2,573,258. This is an impressive haul, considering he has not faced significant opposition in more than a decade. The two Democrats vying to challenge him this year together have raised less than $50,000 combined. If Issa's fundraising continues at its current pace, he will raise more this cycle than in his first four terms in Congress combined. To understand Issa's success, you need to see how he has stealthily used his official position as chairman of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee to build one of the most successful and impressive direct mail operations in the House of Representatives. As chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, Issa is outraising colleagues who occupy traditionally more lucrative posts including Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarlin and Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, whose committee is known as one of the easiest perches in Congress to attract campaign contributions from the fossil fuel and healthcare industries.
Issa, who's independently wealthy, never much worried about fundraising, but the more the GOP congressman focused on manufactured "scandals," the more he was rewarded with checks from conservative donors.
It'll be a while before we know for sure just how lucrative Benghazi will be for the NRCC and Boehner's caucus, but it seems plausible that party leaders saw Issa's fundraising successes and decided it'd be crazy to turn off this spigot, propriety be damned.