Sen. Richard Shelby has $18 million in campaign cash that he doesn't need this year, but he's not likely to share it with his fellow Republicans.
Though he's not up for re-election, the Alabama senator has not transferred any of his considerable campaign wealth to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party arm working to gain GOP control of the upper chamber.
It's a longstanding difference between the two parties. While Senate Democrats are typically generous in shifting campaign funds to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senate Republicans have resisted making donations.
That has held true even this year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs as vulnerable Democratic incumbents fight for their political lives in several red states.
According to a comparison of campaign finance records by the Washington Examiner, Senate Republicans had collectively contributed approximately 1 percent of what they held in the bank to the NRSC as of June 30.
That means that at the end of the second fundraising quarter, Senate Republicans had given only about $1.3 million to the committee — a figure that included contributions from leadership PACs — even as they reported holding about $113 million in cash on hand in their personal campaign accounts.
The NRSC did not dispute the numbers, arguing that Republican senators have served the party in other ways.
"The Republican senators who fight against the [Democratic agenda] every minute of every day are our greatest strength. Our goal is to win the majority and it is entirely possible that we can pick up 10 or more seats this cycle while welcoming four new Republican women to the Senate," NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring told the Examiner on Wednesday.
Senate Republicans’ unwillingness to invest in their own campaign efforts has bedeviled successive NRSC chairmen in their bid to keep pace with the DSCC’s fundraising.
Through June, the Democratic committee had raised $95.8 million for the cycle, compared to $71 million for its Republican counterpart. Privately, Republican operatives focused on Senate races are frustrated by GOP senators’ thriftiness with the NRSC and worry the party could leave winnable seats on the table for lack of funds.
Meantime, Senate Democrats had contributed more than $3 million to the DSCC as of June 30, according to a review of Federal Election Commission filings.
The top two ranking Senate Republicans, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, are up for re-election, curtailing their ability to transfer campaign funds to the NRSC. McConnell, in particular, is locked in a tough battle with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, putting the $9.8 million in cash on hand he reported at the end of June off-limits for transfers to the NRSC.
Ten incumbent Senate Republicans face challenges on the November ballot, tying up $31 million of the $113 million in banked campaign cash GOP members held as of June 30. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is up for re-election but does not have an opponent. That leaves $82 million for the NRSC to draw from, including Sessions’ $3.4 million cash on hand — if Senate Republicans were more willing to fund their bid to regain the majority.
“There are a handful of senators sitting on large bank accounts that could turn elections in smaller states like Arkansas, Alaska, Iowa, Colorado and Montana,” a Republican operative said, referencing five of his party’s top targets in this year’s midterm elections. “It is a frustrating but seemingly a never-changing truth in the GOP Senate.”
Among the larger member transfers to the NRSC this cycle: $100,000 from Sessions; $125,000 from retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia; $64,800 from McConnell; $87,400 from Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah; $64,800 from Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the NRSC’s finance chairman; $50,000 from Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi; and $32,400 from NRSC Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas. Moran's contribution equals what an individual donor is permitted to give the NRSC in a calendar year.
These figures do not include the members’ leadership PAC donations, which laws generally limit to $15,000 per calendar year.
The NRSC is important because it can give advice to inexperienced challengers and serve as a crucial backstop for incumbents who face unexpected difficulties. Already this cycle, the NRSC has helped Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Pat Roberts of Kansas survive difficult primaries.
Judging strictly by contributions to the NRSC, even some House Republicans appear at least as willing as their Senate counterparts to invest in the prospect of Republicans winning control of the chamber on Nov. 4.
FEC records show that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon had contributed $15,000 each to the NRSC through their leadership PACs.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who recently stepped down as House majority leader, each donated $30,000 to the NRSC through their leadership PACs.
While some Republican senators such as Shelby aren't giving money, they insist they are helping.
In the past, Shelby has assisted the NRSC’s fundraising efforts in other ways, such as headlining fundraising events, and his spokeswoman said he would continue to lend a hand.
“Sen. Shelby has always actively supported the NRSC’s efforts to raise funds in order to help Republicans win back the Senate, and he will continue to do so,” Torrie Miller said.