Washington Watch: Scalise getting into the fundraising flow

On the job description for new U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, of Jefferson, the main item is rounding up votes on the House floor to pass legislation endorsed by Republican Party leaders.

But there’s another, unofficial assignment that comes with the job: big-time Republican fundraiser.

As the No. 3-ranking member of the House Republican hierarchy, Scalise will be called on to crisscross the country and also to headline events in Washington to appeal for campaign contributions to his House colleagues.

“There are going to be big expectations for him to step up to the plate to do fundraising for candidates,” U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, said.

“It’s the worst part of the job,” said David Bonior, the Michigan Democrat who was House majority whip in 1991-95. “It’s very time consuming.”

Scalise sees it as a chance to build relationships that will help him move bills through the House.

“I’ll definitely have a lot more opportunities to work with my colleagues, both in my district as well as in theirs,” Scalise said. “I’ve always brought members down to southeast Louisiana, and I’ll continue to do that. I’ll probably have more interest from members to come down to my district, and there are also members that would like me to go and see their districts.”

Scalise is coming off a strong stretch of raising money for his own campaign fund — an undertaking that should get a big lift from his promotion to whip, which officially took effect Thursday. Scalise spent thousands this spring to boost his run for whip and contributed thousands more to fellow House members and candidates, according to campaign reports. He has not drawn significant opposition to his own re-election this fall from the 1st Congressional District in suburban New Orleans.

Federal candidates file reports on their campaign finances every three months with the Federal Election Commission. Scalise’s July 15 filing covered April through June, so it included just 11 days after he was voted in as whip on June 19 as part of a leadership shuffle. But Scalise’s filing shows a flood of contributions to his campaign committee in those 11 days, many from corporate political action committees, which helped boost his total haul for the quarter to nearly $350,000, ranking with his best three-month fundraising periods since his election to Congress in 2008.

Most of Scalise’s nearly $360,000 in spending falls into two categories: fundraising expenses, which include hosting events for would-be donors, and meeting expenses, which include working dinners with House members or staff. Both are permitted outlays from campaign funds, according to Ken Gross, a former head of enforcement for the FEC.

On the night before House Republicans elected him whip, Scalise treated 50 members who helped corral support for him to dinner and drinks at Acadiana, an upscale Louisiana-style restaurant in Washington. The tab came to $8,779.78, according to the FEC filing. The Scalise campaign also spent $7,000 for customized baseball bats handed out at the meeting as souvenirs.

Other meeting expenses in the period ranged from $12,967.81 in late June at a Washington branch of Ruth’s Chris, the high-end steakhouse chain founded in New Orleans, to $9.11 in April at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Washington.

The campaign’s biggest single fundraising event expense totaled $13,859.68 on June 12 at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida (dates may reflect payment processing, not event occurrences).

The Scalise campaign made numerous contributions to the campaigns of other House members. It also reported spending $1,858 for a campaign rally in June.

The campaign took in $126,475 from individuals across the country and $222,100 from PACs and other political committees. Contributions are not tied to specific events in the reports.

Scalise also operates a so-called leadership committee, the Eye of the Tiger PAC. It took in $207,950 in April-June. Its spending focused more on contributions to other candidates, totaling $112,000.

Scalise had been laying the groundwork for an eventual leadership bid for some time. “Raising funds and running for a leadership position in the United States Congress is expensive,” his campaign said in a news statement.

Gregory Roberts is chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email is groberts@theadvocate.com. Follow him on Twitter, @GregRobertsDC.