As Congress makes its way through public impeachment hearings, two of the most powerful lawmakers piloting the inquiry are racking up campaign cash.
The pair of California lawmakers sitting on the House Intelligence Committee — Ranking minority member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — respectively rank first and second for House lawmakers with the most cash on hand.
Nunes, a vocal defender of President Donald Trump, has just shy of $7 million in bank — the most among his House colleagues. He received more money from Republican or conservative groups than any other House member, raising $224,279 so far. The former dairy farmer is also among the top recipients of cash from retirees and agricultural businesses.
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The California Republican enjoys a strong small-dollar donor base, ranking fourth among all current GOP House members in the percentage of small-dollar contributions his campaign received. Roughly $3.1 million — or almost 55 percent of his campaign cash during the 2020 election cycle — came from those who each gave $200 or below.
Nunes’ cash-rich campaign benefited from his top position on the committee. During the 2018 cycle, then-chairman Nunes vigorously defended Trump during probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He raised $13.3 million during the 2018 cycle — a personal fundraising record — for his campaign and leadership PAC, New PAC.
This year, since the beginning of the impeachment inquiry, which was largely prompted by the infamous July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Nunes has repeatedly tried to discredit the whistleblower on air and called the investigation a “hoax.” He labeled the ongoing process an “orchestrated farce” on Twitter and attacked Schiff for being in touch with the whistleblower before the complaint was filed.
While questioning European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a major Trump donor tangled up in the Ukraine controversy, Nunes centered his talking points around the unrelated Steele Dossier. In other hearings, Nunes reportedly remained largely quiet, sometimes even absent.
As Nunes takes a backseat, House Republicans announced last week the addition of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to the House Intelligence Committee. Jordan, a top Trump defender and the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, replaced Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), who hasn’t been active in all depositions.
Seeking reelection in 2018, Nunes faced a serious challenge for the first time from a well-funded Democrat amid criticism from his home state of California for his outspoken defense of Trump during the Russia investigation. But the Fresno Republican managed to outraise his opponent by more than $3 million, hauling in $12.6 million to successfully defend his seat, winning the race by a narrow margin.
With an influx of cash ahead of 2020, Nunes quickly put the money to use. Almost 80 percent of his spending — $2.3 million — went to fundraising efforts to rake in more cash. The campaign has spent $340,691 on digital, radio and TV ad buying this year, as well as $654,975 on postage and mailing, Federal Election Commission records show. Nunes also doled out $25,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
While Nunes holds the most cash among all House members, Schiff comes as a close second.
The California Democrat significantly outraised his opponent during the midterm election, winning almost 80 percent of the votes. But Schiff has now come under fire from Republicans, conservative groups as well as the president himself for leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump for his alleged “quid pro quo” with Zelensky. Many House Republicans, including Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), have run Facebook ads to denounce Schiff or call for his resignation.
Schiff’s campaign, however, has profited off of the attacks. In a recent Facebook ad, Schiff’s campaign alluded to the impeachment inquiry as “critical” and asked for $16 donations from its audience to help reelect him.
Having presided over all the impeachment hearings behind closed doors, Schiff now has a cash reserve of $6.8 million, most of which came from retirees, lawyers and investors. The prosecutor-turned-politician amassed $221,103 from lawyers, some of whom are among his top donors.
Schiff also leads House members in contributions from publishers and is among the top recipients of money from the TV production and distribution industry. He received $1.9 million, or 44 percent of his campaign funds, from small-dollar donors.
The campaign has spent at least $844,747 on print and digital advertising this year, records show. It paid $716,945 to Authentic Campaigns, a communications firm that also provides services to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on a seven-figure contract. Schiff’s team has bought more than $400,000 worth of Facebook ads since last May.
Researchers Doug Weber and Andrew Mayersohn contributed to this report.