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New campaign filings highlight rivalries and divides on Capitol Hill

<i>Michael McCoy/REUTERS/REUTERS via CNN Newsource</i><br/>When Kevin McCarthy was ousted as House speaker last fall
Michael McCoy/REUTERS/REUTERS via CNN Newsource
When Kevin McCarthy was ousted as House speaker last fall

By Matt Holt and David Wright, CNN

(CNN) — When Kevin McCarthy was ousted as House speaker last fall, Republican operatives were concerned that his successor, Mike Johnson, would not be able to replicate his fundraising prowess. So far, those concerns appear valid, new federal filings show.

Johnson announced earlier this month that he had raised $20 million total in the first three months of the year, funds that will go toward his campaign, fellow Republican colleagues and party committees. By comparison, in the first quarter of 2022, McCarthy announced raising $31.5 million for Republicans, and in the first quarter of 2023, he raised even more, $35 million.

The latest filings from the leaders’ joint fundraising committees – which were due Monday with the Federal Election Commission – further illustrate that disparity. In last year’s first quarter, McCarthy’s joint fundraising committee, Protect The House 2024, raised $28 million. In contrast, Johnson’s joint fundraising operation, Grow the Majority, raised $9 million between January and March of this year.

McCarthy, of course, had years to cultivate relationships with donors and distribute funds to allies, while Johnson took over as speaker less than six months ago and faces the challenge of building out his fundraising operation in an election year. Still, his inability to match McCarthy’s fundraising could add pressure to the already embattled speaker as he continues to face ouster threats from rebellious members of his caucus.

In a statement about his fundraising, Johnson said that “in less than six months as Speaker, we have hit the ground running to ensure House Republicans will have the resources necessary to win in battlegrounds across America – and we cannot slow down now. While families suffer under increasing inflation, rising crime, and open borders, we will stay focused on our goal to grow the majority in November and deliver solutions for our nation.”

Meanwhile, the latest filings show that McCarthy, who resigned from Congress at the end of December, still has $6.3 million banked in his personal campaign account, funds he could direct toward other campaign efforts. He did some of that in the first quarter, making $4,000 contributions to both Vince Fong, a former staffer and California assemblyman who is running to succeed him in his Central Valley seat, and to Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves, a McCarthy ally whose seat became more Democratic under a new map that is currently being challenged.

McCarthy also distributed some of the remaining funds in his leadership PAC during the first quarter, transferring $200,000 to a pro-Fong super PAC and notably giving 2,000 to a primary challenger to Virginia Rep. Bob Good, leader of the House Freedom Caucus and one of eight House Republicans who voted to oust him as speaker.

However, McCarthy’s campaign committee refunded roughly $2.8 million worth of contributions last quarter, and he terminated his leadership PAC in February, signs that he is winding down his political operation.

Senate leadership jockeying

The new FEC records also show how Senate GOP whip John Thune of South Dakota and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who held the position before him, moved money around to win influence and jockey for votes as they vie to succeed Mitch McConnell, who is stepping down as their party’s Senate leader in November.

Cornyn, a former National Republican Senatorial Committee chair, transferred $1.2 million to the group and around $1.3 million to Republican Senate candidates and incumbents up for reelection through his joint fundraising account.

Meanwhile, Thune’s leadership PAC, Heartland Values, sent $120,000 to a joint fundraising committee for the GOP’s Senate candidates. He also directed $1.2 million the NRSC’s way through his own joint fundraising operation.

The two major super PACs aligned with Senate leaders of both parties also filed their quarterly reports Monday.

Senate Majority PAC, the Democratic outfit, significantly outraised its GOP counterpart, Senate Leadership Fund, $39.3 million to $26.8 million. The Democratic super PAC also entered April with more cash banked – $92.4 million to $59.5 million. Both groups are poised to play decisive roles this fall: Senate Majority PAC has already announced plans to spend $239 million on a series of key races, while Senate Leadership Fund has announced $130 million in its own fall reservations.

Members take sides

The new FEC filings also shed light on other intraparty divides.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins’s leadership PAC donated $15,000 to Republican Rep. John Curtis’ bid to succeed retiring Sen. Mitt Romney in Utah. Other contenders for the seat include former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and attorney Brent Hatch, a former George H.W. Bush aide whose father, the late Sen. Orrin Hatch, held this seat for seven terms before Romney.

And in another example of internal GOP conflict, California Rep. John Duarte donated $2,000 through his leadership PAC to a primary challenger to South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, another of the eight Republicans who voted for McCarthy’s ouster last fall.

Retiring lawmakers

While many members used their funds to compete for influence and shape elections, the latest FEC reports also showed how those heading for the exits are managing their leftover piles of cash.

Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona entered April with $10.1 million in the bank. Since announcing on March 5 that she would not be running for reelection, she spent roughly $180,000 on various expenses through the rest of the month, including security, travel and payroll.

Retiring Sen. Joe Manchin’s leadership PAC donated $5,000 to Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed him in ruby-red West Virginia. In March, CNN reported that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had approached Manchin about seeking reelection as an independent. A month earlier, Manchin ruled out running for president on a third-party ticket.

Indicted New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who is not seeking the Democratic nod for reelection this year but has left open the possibility of an independent run, raised just $1,200 in first-quarter contributions. He spent nearly $600,000 from January through April, with $550,000 for legal fees in his bribery case.

Meanwhile, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has not said if he will seek a fourth term this year. But his first-quarter fundraising report suggests he may be preparing to serve again: He raised $1.1 million and entered April with $9.8 million in cash on hand.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.

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