Richard Neal, the powerful Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, raised more money for his PAC in the second half of last year than in any other six-month period since the congressman first formed the fundraising vehicle in 2006.
The Madison PAC, Neal’s leadership PAC, reported raising $418,000 in its year-end FEC report, which it filed on Jan. 31. Of the 106 donations it received, 90 came from PACs associated with corporations or business trade associations.
Leadership PACs allow donors who may be seeking to curry influence with a lawmaker to make donations to members of Congress after they have already maxed out to their campaigns. For example, the PAC of Rock Holdings Inc., which owns Rocket Mortgage and several other companies, donated the per-cycle legal maximum of $10,000 to Neal’s campaign through three donations from May to September 2021, but it legally gave an additional $5,000 to Neal on Dec. 23 by way of The Madison PAC.
Leadership PACs are not allowed to spend money on their campaigns’ expenses and are often used by members of Congress for making donations to their colleagues’ campaigns. House Democrats operate under a party dues and points system for determining who gets to be a leader or hold a desirable committee position, with leaders and committee chairs required to pay higher dues and raise more money for the party. As money-in-politics tracking website OpenSecrets explains, “Politicians often use their PACs to donate to other candidates because they are considering seeking a leadership position in Congress.”
Neal’s PAC donated $68,500 to fellow Democrats in 2021, and his campaign transferred $200,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official House Democratic campaign arm that largely backs Democratic candidates in toss-up districts. It had more than $1.6 million in cash on hand as of the end of 2021, according to the FEC.
The Madison PAC’s donors in the second half of the year include the PACs of many companies including Pfizer, Amazon, Raytheon, Humana, Verizon, and Bank of America. The insurance industry and other business lobbies have had favorable policy outcomes under Neal as the tax-writing chair, including last year when he redesigned the Democrats’ paid family leave program to give federal grants to private insurers. Melinda Gates was one of the six individuals who made donations to Neal’s PAC during the period.
Neal faced a strong primary challenge from the left in 2020, but prevailed after his opponent was accused of texting with college students by a student Democratic group that sought guidance from the Massachusetts state Democratic party. Last month, Neal’s top longtime top aide, William Tranghese, announced his retirement after 32 years working in Congress, taking a position as senior vice president at lobbying firm Platinum Advisors, but Neal quickly announced his own intention to run for re-election in the midterms. His seat is now considered safer against progressive challenges after the Democrat-controlled state legislature removed towns from it that Neal lost in the 2020 primary through redistricting.