Not couch cushion money: Former members sitting on $54 million

Kate Ackley and Herb Jackson, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

Members of the 117th Congress who have since left Capitol Hill still hold nearly $54 million in leftover political money — cash they may tap to make contributions as lobbyists or bank for future runs.

The majority of the money, $49.3 million, came from their principal reelection committees, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis of federal campaign reports through Dec. 31. Those funds cannot be used for personal expenses, but ex-lawmakers may use that money to make political donations and charitable contributions. They are under no time pressure to purge the money, either, and can sit on old campaign cash to use later, including for future runs for office.

Another $4.5 million sits in recent ex-members’ leadership PACs, which were created so officials could raise money to support their parties and fellow candidates but have fewer restrictions and, campaign finance experts say, could be spent on personal uses.

Former California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, who resigned Congress to run a Donald Trump-owned media enterprise, held the most cash on hand with $11.2 million in his campaign account, plus another roughly $330,000 in his leadership PAC, New PAC, the Federal Election Commission disclosures showed.

With the second most in the bank, longtime Alabama Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby still holds more than $6.1 million, even after big donations to Georgetown University, where his wife, Annette, had worked and to outside groups that helped boost his preferred successor, Sen. Katie Britt, also a Republican.

Ohio Republican Rob Portman, who retired from his Senate seat, still had $3.1 million in campaign cash and another roughly $47,000 in his leadership PAC. Former Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont had $1.3 million in his two accounts.


Former Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, who lost a primary over her vote to impeach Trump, converted her campaign committee into a PAC called the Great Task, which reported more than $4.7 million cash on hand as of Dec. 31. There was another $347,000 in Cowboy PAC, her leadership fund. Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who also supported impeachment, had nearly $3 million in leftover political money, records show.

K Street bound

Other recently departed members who have decamped for K Street gigs have leftover money that they can use to make donations. Former Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who joined Holland & Knight, reported holding $637,000 between his campaign committee and leadership PAC. Former Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, who lost a GOP primary last year and has since become managing director at Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, had $128,000. Democratic former Rep. Cheri Bustos, who did not run for reelection for her Illinois seat, holds about $730,000. She recently joined the firm Mercury.

Ex-Rep. Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who chaired the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has forged a “strategic collaboration” with the lobbying firm Summit Strategies, though he doesn’t “currently” plan to register as a lobbyist, according to the firm’s announcement. He holds about $225,000 between his old campaign committee and leadership PAC, FEC records show. Former New York GOP Rep. John Katko reported more than $900,000 in his old campaign committee and a little extra change (about $14,000) in his leadership PAC. Katko joined the HillEast firm as a strategic adviser.


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