Republicans fear donations crunch in wake of US Capitol attack

When Rick Scott, the Republican senator from Florida, ran for a job as one of the party’s foremost fundraisers last year, he was seen as such a natural fit that he was appointed without opposition. 

Two months later, Mr Scott’s future as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — the main fundraising vehicle for the party’s Senate candidates — is in doubt after he joined an effort to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.

The ill-fated effort to overturn the result, and the violent assault on the US Capitol that followed, has prompted a backlash among a constituency that the Republican party cannot live without: its donors.

Close to a dozen big US companies have announced they will halt donations to any Republican lawmakers who voted against the certification, while some wealthy individuals have also announced they will stop making contributions too.

Now, some party stalwarts believe Mr Scott may struggle to stay in his role.

“When you see the stampede on donations, it’s very hard to see how Rick Scott can hold on to that position,” said one veteran Republican party fundraiser. “It’s not a tenable position for him with where the corporate community is right now.”

Another GOP operative predicted that from a fundraising perspective the party was looking at “a rough six months”.

On Tuesday, the US Chamber of Commerce, Washington’s biggest business lobby group, warned that it would be watching how members of Congress conducted themselves over the coming days as it weighed whether to fund their future campaigns.

Neil Bradley, the chamber’s chief policy officer, told reporters on Tuesday that some members of Congress had “forfeited” the chamber’s support because of their recent actions.

Jacob Hacker, a political-science professor at Yale University, said companies had “started to realise that . . . factions of the party and its base are a significant threat to their ability to achieve their priorities over the long term”.

A new group called the Republican Accountability Project, founded by anti-Trump Republicans, on Tuesday announced it would spend $50m to help re-elect GOP lawmakers who support Mr Trump’s impeachment.

“I think you can’t overstate the impact of companies and individual donors turning their back,” said Sarah Longwell, a GOP strategist and one of the project’s founders.

She added: “I think it’s something that absolutely will worry Republicans, especially if it goes from a lot of announcements and press releases to the entire party feeling like it’s really impacting fundraising.”

Mr Trump and members of his family have repeatedly said they would back primary challenges against lawmakers who show insufficient fealty to the outgoing president, even after he has left office. Ms Longwell said she hoped that her venture could help lessen the impact of those threats.

“That’s what they’re afraid of, and so we wanted to just show up and say if you take this, if you stand up now, we will be there with financial support,” she said.

Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican senator who led the call for the election certification to be blocked, has borne the brunt of the donor backlash.

Hallmark, the greeting card company based in his state, has asked him to return donations made by its employees. David Humphreys, a Missouri businessman whose family has donated millions of dollars to Mr Hawley’s campaigns, and Sam Fox, another top GOP donor from the state, have announced they will no longer support him.

Mr Trump helped the Republicans raise money via small-dollar donations from his legions of supporters, but some party fundraisers worry that source of cash will dry up when the president is not on the ballot, particularly if the outgoing president ends up renouncing GOP leaders.

The fretting over donations comes as the Republican party wrestles with the question of how it allowed its large fundraising lead to evaporate last spring, when Democrats started to dramatically out-raise their opponents both at the presidential level and in down ballot races.

And on Tuesday, the death of Sheldon Adelson, one of the party’s biggest donors and an early backer of Mr Trump, left the GOP without one of its foremost supporters.

Katon Dawson, the former chair of the South Carolina Republican party, who had raised money from Adelson in the past, predicted the family would continue making contributions, however. He noted that Adelson’s widow Miriam was “always involved” in decisions on political giving.

“I don’t see the family stepping back,” he said. “They have a full political operation.”

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Some Republican donors and fundraisers think that money will start flooding back in when outrage over the assault on the US Capitol starts to fade, and in time for the 2022 midterms, when the party hopes to win back control of the House and Senate.

“This too shall pass,” Mr Dawson said.

Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor, said: “You’re going to see a lot of Republican contributors make up with members pretty quickly as soon as Democrats start imposing new taxes and regulations on industry.”

But Ms Longwell is determined to ensure that the events of January 6 are not so quickly forgotten. “People saw Donald Trump incite people to go attack the Capitol,” she said. “If Republican fundraisers think this is just a bad day that they’ll weather and it’ll go away . . . that’s a bad calculation.”

She added: “Our project is here to remember who did the right thing, and make sure they are helped. And also who did the wrong thing.”

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