Speaker Paul Ryan’s political organization raised $32.7 million through the first half of 2017 — an off-year haul that matches collections made to this point during the 2016 election.
The figure includes $10.3 million from the recently ended second quarter.
“The sustained support for Paul Ryan and the Republican agenda reflects the desire in this country to get things done,” Kevin Seifert, executive director of the Team Ryan joint fundraising committee, said in a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News. “People want to see results and that’s what House Republicans, under Paul Ryan’s leadership, are providing.”
The second quarter ended a hot streak of sorts for Team Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican had set fundraising records since becoming speaker in late 2015. The $22.4 million Team Ryan raised in this year’s first quarter, for example, was a $5 million improvement over the same period in 2016. But April–June 2017 totals lagged April–June 2016 totals by about $5 million.
The second quarter of this year, though, has also involved a number of deep frustrations for Republicans: Obamacare remains unrepealed and the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election has become a constant source of chaos and news. Republican donors so far don’t seem to necessarily mind, especially as special elections have demanded significant fundraising.
Republicans had to spend big to hold on to House seats up for grabs in special elections in Kansas, Montana, Georgia, and South Carolina. They kept all four, but by margins closer than anyone would have guessed a year ago. Last month’s contest in Georgia was a key test in a suburban and longtime GOP-friendly district where Donald Trump barely won. It turned out to be the most expensive House race in history, with Democrat Jon Ossoff raising far more money than Republican Karen Handel, but Ryan and other GOP groups helped push Handel across the finish line.
The spending on these races has some Republicans worried about reloading for the 2018 midterms. Ryan’s allies cite the off-year fundraising totals that are keeping pace with last year's — and the 4–0 special elections record — as encouraging signs.
“We came out aggressively to start 2017, bringing in extra revenue, knowing the specials would be a big fight,” said a Republican familiar with the speaker’s strategy. “We were able to nearly keep par on the spending side because of Ryan's efforts and win each race.”
Ryan shares much of what his operation raises with other House campaigns. Through June he had transferred $21.7 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee from Team Ryan and from his Ryan for Congress reelection fund. Ryan also has contributed directly to members through his reelection fund and Prosperity Action PAC. And he has headlined fundraising events for incumbents, including Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois.
“When it comes to helping everyone on the team,” Davis told BuzzFeed News in a telephone interview, “Paul as speaker is exceeding any expectations anyone could have had.”