Dem Donors Choose Schiff

California Rep's fundraising haul points to Senate run

Adam Schiff / Getty Images

Rep. Adam Schiff (D. Calif.) is amassing one of the largest campaign war chests in all of Congress, new tallies from second quarter fundraising documents show.

An analysis by OpenSecrets.org shows that Schiff has $6.14 million cash on hand, putting him atop that category for all members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Only a few incumbent senators have more cash on hand right now for their personal campaign committees, and senate races are usually more expensive because they are statewide contests as opposed to a smaller house congressional district.

Through the two fundraising quarters combined of 2019, Schiff has taken in about $3.1 million, and spent about half of that in the same time period. A leading California political organizer told the Washington Free Beacon that the massive haul points to a future Senate run from Schiff. Republican political strategist Jason Cabel Roe said it is unthinkable that Schiff would face a serious challenge in 2020, noting that the Democratic registration in the district alone means most Republicans are not willing to fight when the outcome is already determined.

"The reality is, as one of Trump’s chief antagonizers, I don't think he's all that exposed to anybody from the progressive left either," Roe said.

The Schiff campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Schiff was previously among the fairly anonymous house members who seldom draw much attention in the day-in and day-out of Capital Hill. That changed when his position as the ranking chair of the House Intelligence Committee made him a regular on cable news shows on CNN and MSNBC due to the Russia investigation conducted by the committee and special counsel Robert Mueller.

Roe said the fundraising numbers were "jaw-dropping" for a congressman who does not face serious opposition.

"One has to assume that there is an ambition beyond his reelection to bank that kind of money," Roe said. "Clearly he’s taking advantage of his newfound fame, and his efforts going after the president."

Roe said Schiff's behavior points to higher ambitions. Fellow Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein won re-election is 2018, but is 86 years old and many predict she will retire by the 2024 election. A prospective Senate run could come even sooner if Sen. Kamala Harris wins the Democratic nomination and defeats President Trump.

"Clearly he's doing a lot of prospecting trying to build his donor list, and he's certainly not doing that for reelection to a safe seat, so you have to assume he plans on doing something bigger down the road," he said.

The outstanding question for a Schiff Senate run would mirror one of the overarching themes of the presidential race: Would he still be acceptable as a senator in a party that is admittedly tired of electing older, white males?

"I think any conflict he’s had with the progressive left has been masked by the fact that he’s been such an aggressive antagonist of the president, and the fact that he’s in a safe seat," Roe said. "There's really no reason, I think, probably for most Democrats to get beyond the anti-Trump posture when it comes to Schiff. When it gets into a competitive primary situation, that could change."

For all of the striving for diversity among elected Democrats, Roe pointed to California governor Gavin Newsome as an example of how "boring white men" still get elected in the Golden State.

If Schiff’s name recognition and popularity among Democrats was boosted by his work on the House Intelligence Committee, all of that paled in comparison to being attacked by name by President Trump. Schiff soared on Google Trends on the two occasions Trump tweeted about him, once nicknaming him "Little Adam."

Like most good fundraisers, Schiff is spreading some of the wealth to build his network of cohorts. In June, his campaign committee cut checks to 45 other members of the house, most of them vulnerable Democrats in 2020. None of the checks went to any of the four Democrats known as "the Squad:" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tliab (Mich.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) or Ayanna Pressley (Mass.).