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Sen. Josh Hawley challenges the 2020 election results just before the Jan. 6 Capitol siege. Photo: congress.gov via Getty Images

High-profile Trump backers in Congress who tried to block President Biden's election win have raked in grassroots cash this year. Many of their lesser-known rank-and-file colleagues have not.

Why it matters: New campaign finance data underscore a disparity among election objectors. Some have used the infamy to catapult themselves into MAGA stardom. Those who haven't — including some facing competitive 2022 reelection fights — are stuck with all the baggage and little financial benefit.

  • Large segments of corporate America have distanced themselves from GOP election objectors, making a robust grassroots fundraising program all the more important.

By the numbers: Axios analyzed data from midyear filings with the Federal Election Commission, and there have been some clear winners in the grassroots money race.

  • Individual donations for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) shot up by 3,552% compared to the first six months of the 2019 cycle. Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) was up by 832%.
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) pulled in 752% more in contributions in the first half of the year, even as corporate PAC donations dried up almost entirely.
  • Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who reportedly helped organize the "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, raised more than four times from individual donors as much during the first six months of 2021 — when he announced his 2022 Senate bid — than he did in 2019.

Hawley, Cruz, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — part of House leadership — and MAGA stars Gaetz and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), collectively raised $45.5 million more in individual contributions during the first half of 2021 than they did two years ago.

On the other side of the equation are lesser-known lawmakers who haven't been able to capitalize on grassroots popularity to juice their 2021 fundraising.

  • Individual donations to Mississippi Rep. Michael Guest saw an 89% decline. Rep. Scott DesJarlais' haul (R-Tenn.) dropped by 80%.
  • A pair of Republicans on House Democrats' 2022 target list saw some significant grassroots fundraising declines: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) pulled in 45% less from individual donors than he did in 2019. The total for Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-Ariz.) was down 26%.
  • Other members whose districts were considered competitive last year also raised significantly less from individuals. The haul for Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) fell by 49%. North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop's declined 42%. Fellow North Carolinian Rep. Richard Hudson pulled in 18% less.

Between the lines: Of the 110 objectors elected before 2020, 65 saw non-PAC fundraising decline in the first half of the year, most of them by a quarter or more.

  • Some 45 objectors brought in more than they did during the equivalent period last cycle.
  • Total grassroots fundraising by those 110 members was up by $41 million this year, but that rise was attributable entirely to huge spikes for a handful of prominent election objectors.

The bottom line: Media attention is literal currency in the modern GOP.

  • Those who can establish themselves as torch-bearers of the Trumpian right can translate any controversy into massive grassroots fundraising hauls. Those who can't must weather the fallout.
  • Doug Heye, a Harvard Institute of Politics fellow and a former senior House GOP leadership aide, called it the "immediate celebrification" of politics during an interview with Axios.

Be smart: Heye pointed to an infamous photo of Hawley raising his fist in solidarity with Jan. 6 demonstrators before they breached the Capitol.

  • "It's not an exaggeration to say that one picture is worth a million dollars," he said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that fundraising comparisons examined donations from individuals.

Go deeper

Reading the fundraising tea leaves in Virginia

Terry McAuliffe (left) and Glenn Youngkin speak during a debate last month. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Democrat Terry McAuliffe may be trouncing Glenn Youngkin in fundraising, but when it comes to dollars from donors in Virginia — the state where they're battling to become governor — the Republican has the edge.

Why it matters: With tight polls between the two gubernatorial candidates less than two weeks before Election Day, the parties are also looking to fundraising as a predictor of success.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats target billionaires

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After failing to get a deal on other planned tax increases, key Senate Democrats are pivoting to a billionaires' income tax to pay for President Biden's social spending.

The big picture: No advanced economy has attempted anything similar on such a scale.

Anti-abortion activists' Supreme Court dreams are coming true

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

This is the moment the conservative legal movement has been building toward for decades: The solidly conservative Supreme Court is about to hear two major abortion cases within a month of each other.

Why it matters: All of this is likely to end with significant new restrictions on abortion and a clear path for Republican-led states to win the next big abortion cases, too — the culmination of a long and bitter fight for control of the judiciary.