Rep. Adam Schiff flexes party muscle with strong fundraising for Biden, Democrats
Rep. Adam B. Schiff is dramatically increasing his political fundraising in the wake of his high-profile role in President Trump’s impeachment trial and ahead of possible vacancies next year in the U.S. Senate and House Democratic leadership — two promotions that could interest the Burbank Democrat.
Schiff has raised more than $22 million since the beginning of 2019 for his campaign committee and other Democratic groups, including Joe Biden’s presidential race, according to the congressman’s campaign. That includes $1.7 million Schiff raised Monday as host of a virtual event for Biden.
It’s a sharp rise in fundraising for Schiff, who became chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in 2019 and gained national attention as the lead prosecutor in the Senate impeachment trial of Trump this year.
He’s already doubled the $9.9-million fundraising haul for his campaign and other committees in the two-year cycle before the 2018 election. In the 2016 cycle, he raised only $1 million, according to the Open Secrets website. That did not include fundraising for the party committees, which was minimal, according to his campaign.
Compared with other House Democrats, Schiff now ranks third in fundraising behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who leads the committee to elect House Democrats, according to a fundraising document viewed by The Times.
Schiff’s fundraising surge comes as two potential political promotions come within view.
If Biden is elected in November, Gov. Gavin Newsom would have the power to appoint a replacement for Sen. Kamala Harris, the presumptive Democratic vice presidential candidate. While Newsom is viewed as likely to choose a woman or person of color for the seat, Schiff’s fundraising efforts could be seen as boosting his chances.
Schiff has eyed the Senate before. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein was deciding whether to run for a fifth term or retire in 2018, he considered running if she stepped down.
There’s also a possible House leadership race if Pelosi retires. In late 2018, she agreed to step down as leader of the House Democrats by 2022 and could leave office earlier. There is no clear successor in place, and Schiff would probably be a contender for a job in which fundraising prowess is key. He has also built a powerful group of potential allies in the other Democrats to whom he’s contributed.
A Schiff aide downplayed any link between political ambitions and his fundraising. “Schiff has always felt that if you keep your head down and focus on doing the work, the rest will take care of itself. And that philosophy has put him at the center of House Democrats’ effort to hold the president accountable and defend our democracy,” said the aide, who asked to not be identified in discussing the issue.
Besides the impeachment trial, Schiff gained an increasingly prominent party role in 2019 when he was placed in charge of fundraising for the House Democrats who face the toughest reelection fights, called “front-line members.”
These Democrats typically represent historically Republican districts and oftentimes are freshman members. While Democrats are expected to retain control of the House in the 2020 election, the most vulnerable Democrats often require the most fundraising to fend off challengers.
The $22 million Schiff has raised since the beginning of last year includes $12.4 million for his reelection campaign, $7.3 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and for House Democrats in tough races, more than $2.4 million for Biden and $635,000 for Democratic Senate candidates, according to figures provided by his campaign.
California has often been called the Democratic Party’s ATM for fundraising, a machine that Schiff has been able to successfully use to help Democrats. Half of the money raised in his reelection committee came from California donors, according to the campaign. Because Schiff’s seat is considered safe, he is able to spread that money to other Democrats.
Schiff’s Republican challenger, Eric Early, has raised $1.4 million as of June, according to Federal Election Commission documents. In almost any other district, Early’s fundraising would be enough to provide a substantial challenge, but Democratic voters dramatically outnumber Republicans in the district.
Like the Biden fundraiser Monday, Schiff has focused on virtual events since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person gatherings. Earlier this month, he held a fundraiser with actor Jason Alexander and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) in support of Democrats. By election day, he’s expected to have done 50 events for House and Senate candidates.
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