Feb 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Lawmakers raise campaign cash off impeachment trial

Illustration of a gavel on a stack of cash

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Members of Congress from both parties are using Donald Trump's second impeachment trial to solicit donations to their reelection committees.

Why it matters: Trump was a singular force in small-dollar fundraising throughout his four years in office, for both his supporters and critics. His impeachment trial may be lawmakers' last chance to use him as a grassroots money machine, and some in the House and Senate are taking full advantage.

What's happening: As senators heard arguments in Trump's impeachment trial this week, the fundraising appeals began. Republicans who question the constitutionality of the proceeding were among the senders.

  • "There are very few people fighting ALL of these battles in Washington, D.C.," said an email from the campaign committee for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). "But I’m one of them, and I’m asking you to stand with me today as I fight for you."
  • "This absurd trial is 100% partisan theater and nothing more. It is vindictive and WRONG," declared a fundraising email from the committee for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who also took heat over fundraising appeals sent during last month's Capitol attack. His email this week asked for "a $5, $10, $25, $50, or $100 STOP IMPEACHMENT contribution."
  • An email from the committee for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) pleaded for "emergency resources as I lead the fight to expose this fraudulent impeachment for what it is — a reprehensible political circus designed to SHAME millions of Trump supporters."
  • The Republican National Committee has sent at least five fundraising emails this week invoking the impeachment proceedings.

Democrats are fundraising, as well.

  • "Convict the white supremacist-in-chief," read the subject line of an email sent Wednesday by the campaign committee for Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). "Will you make a donation and support Cori’s fight to hold Trump and every seditionist in Congress accountable?"
  • The committee backing Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) emailed supporters to ask that they "stand together to impeach Trump," and "pitch in $5 to help us hold Trump accountable."
  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and a number of Senate Democrats, including Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Cory Booker of New Jersey, sent out largely meaningless polls and petitions asking campaign supporters to weigh in on impeachment — and provide their contact information.

What they're saying: Many Republican senators got defensive Wednesday when we asked about the fundraising solicitations during breaks in the trial. They tried to buttress their answers by making clear they weren't personally engaged in that activity.

  • Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) told Axios: "If that's happening, I want to make sure that we're not doing that. A lot of times that's the wing of your operation. It’s got its own kind of discretion. I personally would think that it would not make sense, but I'm sure many are doing it. That's up to their own offices."
  • “I think that's sort of a symptom of their indifference to this," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said, referring to his GOP colleagues. "I mean, anybody raising money off this is concerning, of course.”
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told Axios: “I’m not doing that, by the way. But every senator is his own independent voice. He’s got to make up his own mind.”
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