LINCOLN, N.D. – House Speaker John Boehner's fundraising skills put him in a class with few others. He has scooped up more than $43 million for accounts under his direct control and helped amass tens of millions more for Republican allies.
The Ohio lawmaker accounts for about one-fifth of the cash collected by House Republicans' campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee. Boehner has written almost $18 million in checks to the group, which has raised $101 million this campaign cycle.
He is spending Congress' August break on a 14-state bus tour to help the GOP hold the majority in the House, appearing at fundraisers for candidates, including one Friday night in North Dakota for first-term Rep. Kevin Cramer.
"I'm glad he's on my team. Let's get him re-elected," Boehner said of Cramer during a fundraiser in an old dairy barn that is now an events center in Lincoln, a town of about 2,400 people southeast of Bismarck.
Boehner said it was about "saving the American dream for my kids and yours."
In the audience were about 250 lobbyists, business leaders and farmers who each paid $100 to hear Boehner and grab a hamburger, some potato salad and cookies.
By the time Boehner returns to Washington, he will have traveled 6,000 miles and appeared at campaign events for 20 Republicans candidates. He will have met with party leaders and the activists behind local political organizing.
Elmer Knodel, 82, drove 85 miles from his farm in Drake for the chance to see Boehner, and write Cramer a check.
"I've been corresponding with (Boehner) for years," Knodel said. "The speaker told me he was real glad to meet me."
Boehner's draw and fundraising prowess ensure he probably can lead the GOP as long as he wants.
He "is probably the more important Republican in America today," Gov. Jack Dalrymple told as donors.
Speculation about Boehner's retirement often quiets when operatives realize the large role his fundraising machine plays.
The speaker's role typically brings with it tremendous fundraising potential.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent more than $2 million from her campaign accounts to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's unsuccessful bid to keep the party's House majority in 2010. Democrats say she helped raise more than $20 million for the committee in that year, and $27 million last year.
Pelosi, still the top Democrat in the House, has paid $1 million directly to the congressional campaign committee this year and has helped it raise more than $45 million this cycle, party officials said. Her fundraising haul stands at almost $69 million for candidates and committees combined.
Pelosi tends to help other Democratic political machines raise money. Boehner, who rose to the House's top job after 2010's tea party-driven elections removed Pelosi as speaker, favors collecting the cash through his committees and doling it out.
Boehner's Ohio re-election campaign raised $15 million and his national fundraising committee raised more than $25 million. His grass-roots committee, The Freedom Project, raised an additional almost $3 million.
Boehner's fundraising footprint is significantly larger than what appears on federal campaign tallies. He raises millions more through fundraising letters, automated phone calls and emails that have his signature. Events like the one Friday evening add to that tally.
National Republican Congressional Committee officials declined to detail how much Boehner-backed fundraising pitches collect for them.
Even with Boehner's deep pockets and drawing power, the House Republicans' campaign committee lags its Democratic rival. Heading into July, the Democratic committee had raised almost $125 million this cycle and outraised the Republicans in 16 of the previous 18 months.