House Republicans are electing a new majority leader Thursday. What exactly does the majority leader do? Job number one: Keep the majority. To do that you need money. Lots of it.
“The majority leader has the dirty work,” says Paul Light, professor of public policy at NYU.
He estimates that House majority leaders spend about 30 percent of their time raising money, but it’s not just fundraising. They also have to man the firehose of campaign cash that’s gushing in.
“There is so much money,” Light explains. “The majority leader has to work to see whether it can get deployed to places where it’s needed.”
Republican Kevin McCarthy of California is expected to win the House majority leader vote. He’s already raised a lot of money for other Republican House members, whose votes he’ll be counting on.
“Just like the godfather did, you call on your beneficiaries to give you a service, and in this case the service is supporting him for majority leader, ” says Jack Pitney, who teaches government at Claremont McKenna College.
Of course, Democrats do this too. But it wasn’t always this intense; the money race got tougher after Republicans took control of the House after the 1994 elections, ending decades of Democratic control. Dan Glickman of Kansas was one of the Democrats voted out that year. He says now that the House is in play, you need more money to stay in control.
“I think the competitive nature of the House certainly ups the ante,” he says.
Glickman says it ups the ante for the minority leader as well, who’s also out raising money to try to reclaim control of the House.