Hoyer: Sugar Daddy to Vulnerable House Dems

Hoyer and Pelosi
U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer is the second most generous House Democrat when it comes to donating to colleagues, behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi. File photo

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer has been doling out cash to help keep U.S. House Democrats facing tough 2020 races around for the next Congress. 

Democrats have just gotten settled in the majority after reclaiming control of the House earlier this year, but Hoyer — the House majority leader who represents Maryland’s 5th District — isn’t wasting time gearing up for the next battle for the chamber coming in November 2020. 

He’s channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign cash to the 44 “Frontline” members the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified as vulnerable incumbents in 2020. He’s also donated to other members of the Democratic freshman class and to candidates hoping to oust sitting Republicans in 2020. 

“Congressman Hoyer is committed to defending and growing the Democratic House Majority. He is proud to have already contributed to all of the DCCC Frontline candidates, and looks forward to supporting his colleagues and the many talented candidates running throughout the nation moving forward,” said his campaign spokeswoman Annaliese Davis. 

It’s common for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — particularly those in leadership positions and in safe seats — to spread the wealth to boost their colleagues’ campaigns. Hoyer has long been known as an effective fundraiser, and as the No. 2 House Democrat, it’s a key part of his job. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “is the master and then Steny is appropriately the second-largest raiser and contributor,” said Jim Moran, a Democrat and former congressman from Virginia. 

So far this cycle, Hoyer has raised about $2.4 million through his campaign and his leadership political action committee (PAC), which he uses to donate to other Democrats. By contrast, the average House lawmaker has raised about $617,000 so far this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (Pelosi has raised $3.5 million this cycle through her campaign and leadership PAC). 

Hoyer has donated about $714,000 to other candidates’ campaigns — including the Frontline Democrats — and another $300,000 to the DCCC, according to his latest filings. The numbers include data from the first six months of this year. 

The Maryland Democrat was a prolific fundraiser in recent election cycles, too. During the 2017-2018 cycle, Hoyer raised a combined $9.12 million as he and his colleagues attempted to reclaim the House majority from Republicans. 

And while it’s still early in this cycle, former lawmakers say it’s a critical time to plow cash into vulnerable candidates’ coffers. 

“The other side will scrutinize how much each candidate raises by quarter and that determines who they will go after,” Moran said. “If you show weakness, low fundraising numbers, you’re prey. It’s sort of the law of the jungle. If a young zebra is limping, she’s not going to be around in the morning.” 

Hoyer’s campaign donations can also encourage others to give to those candidates, said Phil English, a Republican who represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. House and was a vice chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. 

He “points the way for other loyal party money and also key advocacy groups to support freshmen members who are critical to the success of the Democratic majority,” English said. 

A donation from Hoyer “sends an important message that this is a member that’s working as part of Mr. Hoyer’s team,” English added. “That’s a very valuable commodity for a freshman member because there are many people on the Hill who want to donate tactically, and they know if they support that freshman member they are demonstrating support for Mr. Hoyer and his agenda as well as the freshman member themselves.” 

Hoyer isn’t the only member of the Maryland delegation shelling out cash to his colleagues this cycle. Lawmakers also pay dues to the DCCC and the NRCC, the campaign committees that work to bolster their respective parties in the House. Those dues vary depending on seniority and committee assignments. 

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a 9th term Democrat who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has donated $72,000 to Democratic candidates from his campaign this cycle, largely to Frontline Democrats. He contributed another $201,000 to the DCCC. 

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, contributed to Frontline Democratic Reps. TJ Cox of California ($1,000), Lucy McBath of Georgia ($2,000) and Katie Porter of California ($2,000), according to his latest filing. He gave $175,000 to the DCCC. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) has given $27,000 to Democratic candidates this cycle, primarily to Frontline lawmakers. He contributed $75,000 to the DCCC. 

Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D) has donated $13,000 to his colleagues and $100,000 to the DCCC. 

Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) has given $5,000 to the DCCC. 

Freshman Rep. David J. Trone (D) hasn’t contributed to other federal candidates or the DCCC from his campaign during the first six months of this year, according to his most recent filing. 

Rep. Andrew P. Harris, the lone Republican in the state’s delegation to Congress, donated in June to Greg Murphy, a GOP candidate running for a special election for a North Carolina U.S. House seat. 

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