Billionaires and big corporate donors kept funneling millions into outside groups boosting GOP lawmakers even after 139 House Republicans and eight senators voted to overturn the national election results in January, according to new federal election records reviewed by The Daily Poster.
The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), which backs Senate Republicans, reported receiving $2 million from Occidental Petroleum on Jan. 6, 2021, the day of the right-wing insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), which supports GOP House candidates, raised substantially more than it did during the 2019 election cycle at this time, with big donations from oil companies, billionaires, and undisclosed sources.
The two super PACs represent one of the most effective avenues for wealthy donors and corporate interests to pump money into the national GOP. The groups are not subject to any contribution limits, and thanks to consistently weak campaign finance law enforcement, super PACs have become key elements of the party infrastructure, working closely with political parties and candidates.
During the 2020 election, CLF and SLF spent roughly $437 million to promote Republican candidates and tear down their Democratic opponents, according to OpenSecrets.
The groups’ efforts didn’t slow down after last year’s election. According to their most recent filings, CLF raised nearly $12 million between January and June this year, while SLF raised just over $6 million. CLF saw a substantial increase in donations compared to this time period last election cycle, when it raised over $8 million. The SLF raised about the same amount it did then: just under $6 million.
Bankrolling Election Deniers
On January 7, a majority of GOP House lawmakers voted to overturn the presidential election results in either Pennsylvania or Arizona — and many of those congress people were able to do so because of the efforts of CLF.
The super PAC spent nearly $143 million last election helping Republican House members and attacking their opponents, including aiding the campaigns of 19 representatives who voted in January, hours after the insurrection, to sustain objections to the electoral college results. More than half of GOP lawmakers who benefited from CLF spending in 2020 objected to the presidential election results in Arizona or Pennsylvania.
That included Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert; last year, CLF spent more than $900,000 on TV ads boosting her successful campaign for Colorado's 3rd congressional district. After Boebert won, she voted to overturn the results of the presidential election. She’s still calling for an audit, many months later.
CLF also told donors last November, in a memo obtained by Politico, that it spent about $3.5 million to help Republican Stephanie Bice win an upset against incumbent Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla. Bice would go on to vote to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory.
In some cases, Republican lawmakers’ campaigns were almost entirely bankrolled by CLF. The super PAC spent over $15 million boosting Reps. Nicole Malliotakis of New York, Burgess Owens of Utah, and Troy Nehls of Texas. All of them voted to overturn the election results. In addition to ad spending, CLF ran field programs and canvassing operations for the candidates.
CLF wrote in its memo that it “carried the entire GOP TV advertising presence” in Nehls’ race and CLF "carried nearly all GOP advertising" for Malliotakis.
SLF, meanwhile, has aided the campaigns of three senators who objected to the 2020 election results: Sens. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who were elected in 2018, and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., who won his seat last year.
Corporate Titans And Big Donors Keep Giving
Despite CLF and SLF’s associations with lawmakers who voted to overturn the election, the super PACs haven’t seen any fundraising problems since Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in January.
During the first half of the year, for example, the groups took in big donations from fossil fuel companies. CLF received $1 million from OTA Holdings, a subsidiary of the Louisiana oil and gas company Enterprise Products Partners, and $500,000 from Chevron. WPX Energy, an oil and gas company that recently merged with Devon Energy, gave $250,000 to the House committee, while Valero Energy gave $100,000.
SLF, meanwhile, received nearly $2.8 million from oil and gas companies, including the $2 million donation from Occidental on the day of the insurrection, as well as $625,000 from Chevron and $150,000 from the Colorado-based Ovinitiv USA.
Some of the money coming into CLF has been dark money. The group received about $3.5 million, or 30 percent of its haul so far this year, from American Action Network, an affiliated nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors.
CLF also received nearly $3 million from five billionaires: Ken Griffin, the CEO of Citadel LLC ($1 million); Paul Singer, Co-CEO of Elliott Management ($1 million); investment banker Warren Stephens ($500,000); Robert Rowling, the founder of TRT Holdings, which owns Omni Hotels and used to own Gold’s Gym ($250,000); and businessman Philip Anschutz ($125,000).
Hillwood Development, the commercial real estate firm founded by Ross Perot Jr., donated $1 million to CLF.
Other top individual donors included Ronald Cameron ($250,000), the owner and CEO of the poultry company Mountaire Farms, and Walter Buckley Jr. ($228,100), the CEO of the venture capital firm Actua Corporation. Cameron also gave $250,000 to the SLF.
Corporate interests also continued donating to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which supports GOP candidates in state attorneys general races, after its nonprofit arm helped direct people to the January 6 protest preceding the insurrection at the Capitol.
RAGA received corporate donations from AT&T ($125,000), Anheuser-Busch ($105,000), Pfizer ($51,000), T-Mobile ($50,000), Postmates ($40,000), and Mastercard ($25,000).
Editor’s note: This article previously stated that TRT Holdings owns Gold's Gym, but Gold's Gym was sold to RSG Group last year.
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