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Rep. Jim Jordan vies for speaker as atypical fundraiser

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) | Flicker

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who announced in July that he would run for speaker of the House, has an unusually high number of contributions from ideological or single-issue groups and doesn’t have a strong record in regards to fundraising, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets.

Twenty-one percent of Jordan’s money raised this cycle has come from party and candidate committees, leadership PACs or single-issue PACs. In comparison, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), his opponents in the race for the speakership, have raised only 1.2 percent and 3.9 percent respectively of their political contributions from ideological or single-issue groups this cycle.

At the beginning of each congressional session (every two years), each major party conference or caucus nominates a candidate for speaker and members  customarily elect the speaker by roll call vote. To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes cast in the House.

Percentage-wise, Jordan has raised more money from ideological sources this cycle than any other speaker of the House did during the cycle before they became speaker since the Center for Responsive Politics started collecting campaign finance data. In his entire career in Congress, he’s raised over 6 percent of his contributions from ideological sources, which is also above average when compared to others who have run for the speakership.

Ideological or single-issue PACs are usually created by organizations that are primarily partisan or focus on a single-issue area such as abortion, the environment, gun rights or foreign policy. Many of these groups — the National Rifle Association, EMILY’s List — are well known and capable of launching high-profile media campaigns to mobilize their members and bring out support for politicians who back their ideology or specific issue.

Some of the more well-known organizations and individuals that Jordan’s ideological/single issue contributions have come from include Citizens United ($5,000); the House Freedom Fund ($21,200 in earmarked contributions from individual donors); FreedomWorks PAC ($24,933 in earmarked contributions); Eye of the Tiger PAC (Scalise’s leadership PAC, $2,500); the Senate Conservatives Fund ($7,700); the National Rifle Association ($1,000); and a couple of anti-abortion PACs ($2,000).

However, when it comes to his fundraising prowess, Jordan has consistently raised less money compared to the average member of Congress, let alone those vying for leadership positions. 

Fundraising has historically been considered a key part of the speaker’s responsibilities; some have even called it a “core responsibility of speakers of the House.”

McCarthy and Scalise have raised $6.6 million and $4.1 million respectively as candidates this cycle and their leadership PACs, Majority Committee PAC and Eye of the Tiger PAC, have raised millions more for them as well.

Jordan, on the other hand, has raised only $436,000 this cycle and does not currently have a leadership PAC of his own. The previous two speakers of the House, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and John Boehner (R-Ohio), each raised over $9 million in the cycles before they became speaker. Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) also raised millions during the cycles before they became speaker and had formidable leadership PACs to boot.

Donating to other representatives in one’s caucus has been another typical responsibility of the speaker and speaker candidates. Jordan has donated $60,000 to others this cycle whereas McCarthy, Scalise and recent  speakers of the House have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in the cycle when they were running for speaker.

However, Jordan’s nontraditional fundraising credentials and ideological background are a big part of why he’s running and why those who support him are doing so. He’s running to reform the speakership and the policies passed in the House.

In a letter to his fellow Republican colleagues, Jordan said he wanted power in the House to be decentralized such that committee assignments and leadership positions are made on “talent, merit and experience,” whereas many such decisions are made allegedly based on fundraising abilities currently. Policy-wise, he said he wants to support President Trump and bring “real change” to Congress by trying to repeal Obamacare, passing welfare reform, building a border wall, making the 2017 tax cuts permanent and ending funding for Planned Parenthood.

Almost every outside conservative group including the Tea Party and the House Freedom Caucus have thrown their support behind Jordan.

Besides his nontraditional fundraising background, another reservation that some have in regards to his candidacy for speakership is a recent sexual assault scandal that he has been connected to.

Jordan, a former Division 1 wrestler, was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994. During and before his time at the university, a team doctor, Richard Strauss, allegedly had questionable interactions with teammates and students. Eight former Ohio State University wrestlers have come out against Jordan in recent weeks for reportedly failing to intervene with Strauss, whom they claim was molesting them and students.

Nihal Krishan

Nihal joined CRP as a reporter in June 2018. He’s been a political reporter in Washington for the past 3 years working for various news outlets including PBS Arizona, Circa News, Inside Sources and Australian ABC News. He’s been published in the Huffington Post, The Independent, USA Today and has been a guest speaker on NPR. One of his first big national stories came from digging through CRP data in 2015 and finding the largest donor to federal campaigns in Arizona, an unknown out of state parent company — he’s gotten a thrill out of tracking money in politics since. Nihal is a TCK who grew up in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, India and Singapore. He graduated from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism with degrees in Political Science and Journalism.

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