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McCarthy’s political operation spent millions on lawmakers now opposing his speaker dreams

Money can buy a lot of things. The speakership of the House may not be one of them.

In the 2022 election cycle alone, political groups affiliated with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) spent over $1 million supporting Republican representatives who have now voted against him for speaker, according to a review of federal campaign finance records.

Of the 20 Republicans who voted for someone other than McCarthy — leaving the House in deadlock — 14 received a total of $120,000 in contributions from McCarthy’s leadership PAC, the Majority Committee, the filings show. That includes Reps. Dan Bishop (N.C.), Michael Cloud (Texas), Andrew Clyde (Ga.), Byron Donalds (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Andy Harris (Md.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Matt Rosendale (Mont.), along with incoming freshmen Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.), Josh Brecheen (Okla.), Andy Ogles (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Ariz.) and Keith Self (Texas).

The donations were among hundreds McCarthy spread around to the Republican conference and GOP challengers as he sought to help Republicans win the House majority in 2021 and 2022. Most candidates received the maximum $10,000 — $5,000 each for the primary and the general election — although a few only got support for the general election.

Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Mary Miller (Ill.) and Chip Roy (Texas) did not receive any contributions from McCarthy’s PAC in the last election cycle, although some have benefited from the political operation in the past. Most of the incumbents — with the exception of Boebert, whose contest went to an automatic recount due to its surprisingly close margin — faced easy paths to reelection in the midterms.

“This is not personal,” Roy said on the House floor on Tuesday.

In addition to McCarthy’s leadership PAC, the McCarthy-aligned House GOP super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund, also threw its support behind some of the lawmakers who are now spoiling his speaker bid. Crane received $10,000 in contributions from CLF during both the primary and general election. Harris and Self each received $5,000 during their primary and general elections, respectively.

CLF didn’t just donate to Crane, however. The super PAC also spent over $900,000 on ads in support of him as he challenged incumbent Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran in Arizona’s 2nd District. Crane, a political newcomer backed by former President Donald Trump, went on to beat O’Halleran, who was one of the most vulnerable House Democrats in 2022 due to redistricting, by about 8 points.

One TV spot touted that Crane would “stand up to [President Joe] Biden and stop the spending.”

First, though, Crane is standing up to McCarthy.

As the main House Republican super PAC, CLF has spent heavily in previous elections bolstering other Republicans who are now playing the role of anti-McCarthy rebels. In 2020, the super PAC poured over $1.5 million into Perry’s race in Pennsylvania, targeting Democratic opponent Eugene DePasquale. It also spent $1.8 million opposing Democrat Cameron Webb, who was Good’s opponent in central Virginia. Perry won his election by 12 points, but it was a closer race for Good, who won by 5 points.

“Our job is not to coronate the biggest fundraiser or rubber stamp, the status quo, or keep on going along to get along,” Boebert said on the floor Wednesday, as she nominated Donalds during the fifth round of voting.

It’s unclear how many rounds of votes it will take to elect a speaker, given Republicans’ small majority and the relative lack of movement among those GOP lawmakers opposing McCarthy. During the first two rounds of voting on Tuesday, 19 lawmakers refused to back the GOP leader. That number grew to 20 by the third vote. The House then adjourned.

The fourth round of voting Wednesday saw all of the same lawmakers voting against McCarthy — plus Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who previously voted for McCarthy, voting present. She received $10,000 from the Majority Committee during the 2022 primary and general elections. And in 2020, when she held a key battleground district, CLF spent over $1 million on the race.

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