House Democrats are cashing in on chatter that Republicans are plotting to impeach President Barack Obama, raising $1 million on Monday alone, their campaign chief said Tuesday. Republicans insisted such talk was bogus.
Rep. Steve Israel, who runs the House Democrats’ campaign committee, told reporters that House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement of a lawsuit against Obama opened the door for both impeachment and the fundraising drive. Since Boehner announced in June he planned to sue the president, Democrats’ House campaign arm has raised $7.6 million.
“I understand the strategy is intended to gin up its base,” Israel told reporters at a breakfast organized by The Christian Science Monitor. “Every time they talk about suing the president, that just ignites our base.”
Boehner, meanwhile, said Democrats were the ones fueling impeachment talks. The Ohio Republican told reporters on Capitol Hill that his party has “no plans” to open impeachment proceedings. He called Democrats’ fundraising efforts a “scam.”
Other Republican leaders, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, tried to shut down the impeachment buzz. Invoking the 1998 impeachment debate over President Bill Clinton, which resulted in House Republicans losing five seats, McCain noted “last time we tried that routine it didn’t help.”
And the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, said “nobody on our side in the leadership is talking about the I-word.”
The dueling messages come as both parties are working to engage voters – and, perhaps more importantly, donors. The Democrats’ House campaign committee has been a fundraising powerhouse this election cycle, out-raising its GOP rival in 16 of the last 18 months.
Although House Democrats face an uphill climb to take the majority, their fundraising operation has raised almost $125 million since January 2013. During the same period, House Republicans have raised more than $101 million to defend their majority.
House Democrats have highlighted the specter of impeachment in fundraising pitches to tremendous effect since Boehner announced a lawsuit against Obama for failing to enforce U.S. laws, a potential starting point for impeachment proceedings. Some 74,000 first-time donors have responded to the Democrats’ pitch about impeachment, Israel said.
“The fate of Obama’s presidency is at stake,” Democrats said in an email solicitation sent Sunday.
The average donation, Israel said, was just $19.
On Capitol Hill, Boehner said Republicans have “no plans to impeach the president” and said the White House was fueling talk of impeachment for political gain.
“This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they’re trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s elections,” Boehner said.
Added Walden, the Boehner ally tasked with running House Republicans’ campaign arm: “It’s very clear impeachment is not on the table, hasn’t been on the table.”
Speculation about impeachment has been popular among conservative activists and some lawmakers despite Boehner’s dismissal. In an interview this week, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, newly elected to the GOP leadership, repeatedly declined to rule out impeaching Obama.
A Democratic super PAC pointed to Scalise’s comments in a fundraising solicitation on Tuesday.
“The tea party is so focused on hurting President Obama that they’re willing to throw America’s middle class families to the side,” the House Majority PAC wrote. “We have to stop them now.”
Republicans are expected to keep their House majority after November’s elections. Re-drawn congressional districts favor the GOP and both parties are contesting only a handful of seats. Even so, the parties’ House campaign committees have already raised more than $226 million as of July 1.
Republicans have 234 seats in the House and Democrats have 199 seats. There are two vacancies.
Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.