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January 6 Hearings Become Fundraising Fodder
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January 6 Hearings Become Fundraising Fodder

Republicans and Democrats see the proceedings as an opportunity to raise small-dollar donations from voters.

On the evening of June 9, the House select committee investigating the events of January 6 heard from a number of Trump administration officials of the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including former Attorney General Bill Barr and Trump’s eldest daughter and former senior adviser, Ivanka. 

Hours before those hearings aired on primetime television, House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik did what party leaders often do when faced with unfavorable press—she asked supporters for money.

“This is Elise Stefanik — I’m writing this email as fast as I can! I won’t mince words: it’s a WITCH HUNT against President Trump and the MILLIONS of loyal Americans who support him!” Stefanik wrote in a June 9 email paid for by House GOP Whip Steve Scalise’s joint fundraising committee. “I’m teaming up with Steve Scalise to authorize a 500% contribution match for EACH AND EVERY American hero with the courage to stand with us before these sham hearings begin.”

In her email, Stefanik accused Democrats of weaponizing the hearings ahead of the midterms to distract voters from kitchen-table issues like skyrocketing prices, rising crime, and chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border under Democratic leadership in the White House and Congress. 

But she put the onus on Republican voters to make their voices heard with a $10, $25, or even $100 donation to Scalise For Congress: “So what are you going to do about it, Patriot?” 

Republicans have spent the past year decrying the committee as political theater aimed at vilifying the former president and his supporters ahead of November, when Republicans are well-positioned to retake the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. 

January 6 related fundraising efforts are likely to heat up even more in light of last week’s surprise witness testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who said under oath that Trump seemed unconcerned that his supporters were armed with deadly weapons during the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, among other allegations. Aspects of her testimony have since come under scrutiny from former Trump officials—not to mention the former president himself—who claim that parts of her testimony don’t stand up under further review (though those officials have not yet testified about the matter under oath). 

Hutchinson testimony skepticism aside, Stefanik’s aforementioned fundraising pitch speaks to a broader effort on behalf of Republicans—including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the former president himself—to shore up small-dollar support from voters amid the January 6 House select committee’s ongoing investigation into the events preceding the Capitol riot.

Republicans aren’t alone in their efforts. Democrats are also using the House Select Committee’s hearings as fundraising fodder—albeit by characterizing Republicans’ efforts to play down the former president’s role in the Capitol riot as an affront to democracy.

“As the hearings begin, please consider making a $25 donation to the DNC today to help protect our democracy and elect Democrats who are ready to do the same,” read one email from the Democratic National Committee last month, per the Washington Times. “The hour of truth is coming,” reads another email from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quoting House Select Committee Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin. 

According to an early June Axios report, the Defending Democracy Together Institute “tallied more than 500 emails over the past month from Democratic campaigns, party committees and independent political spenders” that mentioned either the Capitol riot or the January 6 investigation.

“As the old adage goes, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste,’” one GOP representative told The Dispatch on Wednesday. The member said that both parties’ politicization of the hearings speaks to the brokenness of today’s politics. “It’s all about raising money to stay in power and get as much TV time as possible.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that both parties have also responded to the overturning of Roe v. Wade by pleading with their supporters for cash. Democrats did the same in the aftermath of former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September 2020. “To Joe and me, it is clear: The voters should pick a President, and that President should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg,” reads a fundraising email from then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris that was sent the morning after Ginsburg died. Later that day, the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue announced that its supporters had given $70.6 million in response to the news.

Last month’s January 6 related fundraising blitzes also call to mind the Benghazi hearings in 2015, when then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton experienced her best-ever fundraising haul up to that point in the aftermath of her 11-hour testimony before the committee. 

“I’ve learned over [the] last six years that people on both sides will fundraise off any issue,” GOP Rep. Don Bacon told The Dispatch on Wednesday when asked about the trend. “If someone thought they could make money by doing an email on the color of the shoes you were wearing they’d do it.”

And with respect to the January 6 hearings, it’s a tale of two political parties fundraising off of one of the most polarizing events in recent memory. Where millions of Americans see a concerted effort on behalf of a former president to undermine democracy—and still others are unsure of what to make of the day’s events—candidates and political action committees see dollar signs.

“I’VE BEEN SUBPOENAED,” reads the subject line of a separate June 9 fundraising email from Rep. Jim Jordan, the ranking Republican member on the House Judiciary Committee, which he likely will chair if Republicans retake the House in this election cycle. The January 6 committee subpoenaed Jordan in May because he was in contact with Trump in late 2020 about the presidential election. “Attack me on TV, attack me in the New York Times but to question my legal integrity with a subpoena?! I’m going to need your help,” his email continues.

Even first-time candidates spent early June invoking the hearings in fundraising pitches. That includes Trump-endorsed Joe Kent, who is challenging incumbent GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for her vote to impeach Trump for his role in instigating the Capitol riot. In a June 16 email Kent bemoaned the “beginning of Democrats’ bogus January 6 show trials.”

As the select committee prepares for its next public hearing on July 12, House Republicans are already planning ways to play January 6-related subpoena power to their advantage next year in the likely event that they retake the chamber.

 Axios reported Wednesday that on July 1, Republican Study Committee Chairman and GOP Rep. Jim Banks sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking his department to “review White House gate logs, surveillance videos, and all other records that could indicate which of these senior staff were present at the White House during the times referenced” Hutchinson’s sworn statements. 

The next January 6 Committee hearing is scheduled to take place on July 12.

Audrey is a former reporter for The Dispatch.