Rep. Greene’s fundraising haul alarms detractors, who warn she represents a dangerous side of American politics
By Marianna Sotomayor,
During her first three months in office, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has declared herself representative of the Republican Party’s base of voters and not a fringe member of the GOP as she faced a torrent of criticism over her extremist positions, which have been denounced as falsehoods and racist.
Now the Georgia Republican has the fundraising numbers to help make her case.
Greene announced earlier this week that she raised a staggering $3.2 million during the first quarter of the year with more than 100,000 individual donations. Her campaign team adds that 98 percent of the donations were under $200.
“I am humbled, overjoyed, and so excited to announce what happened over the past few months as I have been the most attacked freshman member of Congress in history,” she wrote on Twitter. “ . . . The political ruling class fears the people because it’s the people that can take away what they love most. Power. Because it’s power that brings them everything else. I am one of the people and the people are with me, and I will always be with them. WE are just getting started!”
Greene’s total amounts to a historic record in fundraising for a House freshman during an off-year election quarter, and it is the latest and clearest sign that she has tapped into a vein of support that goes well beyond her Georgia district. While Democrats took the unprecedented step to kick Greene off her congressional committees earlier this year for numerous extremist statements, the Georgia Republican’s popularity among the party’s base is rooted in her embrace of the cultural fights and expressions of grievance articulated by former president Donald Trump, not the traditional power structures of Congress.
Republicans overall have so far largely reported a successful first quarter of fundraising, with the National Republican Congressional Committee, responsible for expanding the party’s numbers in the House, bringing in $33.7 million, including $5.3 million from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and $3.5 million from Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). Lawmakers must officially file their first-quarter results with the Federal Election Commission by Wednesday.
But Greene’s fundraising total and the support it signifies has alarmed her detractors, who warn she represents a dangerous side of American politics bent of waging divisive battles over race and the growing diversity in the country.
The American Jewish Committee has denounced some of her remarks as antisemitic, including when she suggested in a 2018 Facebook post that California wildfires were started by banking companies led by Jewish families. The group called her fundraising numbers “a warning shot to American democracy.”
Jason Isaacson, chief policy and political affairs officer at AJC, said the group recognizes “the difficult proposition” it and others face when criticizing Greene because doing so only strengthens her popularity with her supporters. Speaking out, however, is the “wiser choice” because “ignoring such dangerous forces doesn’t make them go away.”
“It’s on us to expose the threat that they pose to American democracy, the rule of law, the social fabric, so it will resonate with people of conscience and diminish the threat,” he said.
Among Greene’s incendiary and false statements in recent years are saying that Black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party,” that Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, represented “an Islamic invasion into our government offices,” and that Jewish megadonor George Soros collaborated with Nazis.
She has also expressed support for the radical ideology of QAnon, a sprawling set of false claims that have coalesced into an extremist ideology that has radicalized its followers, some of whom participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Earlier this year when her committee assignments were being challenged, Greene renounced some of her most egregious remarks but has since continued to make false claims, including that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump through voter fraud.
Greene heavily relied on the narrative to raise a significant amount between Election Day and the end of 2020, early indicators of her growing support since before she took office. According to FEC filings, the Georgia Republican raised the fourth most between that time period with $230,000 for non-incumbent House candidates. A lot of her money came from her constant, almost daily email blasts to supporters echoing Trump’s false claim that the presidential election was stolen from him.
Republican leaders initially sought to distance themselves from Greene when she was running for Congress last year. McCarthy characterized her comments as “appalling,” while Scalise said they were “disgusting.” But since she was sworn in, they have avoided criticizing her and most House Republicans opposed stripping her of committee assignments.
Only 11 Republicans voted in favor of removing their colleague from her committees, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), whose effort to stop Greene and other Trump-inspired lawmakers from defining the party helped him raise $2.2 million during the first quarter, three times more than he raised during the same time period in 2019. His large first-quarter fundraising haul — half of which he’ll give to his “Country First” political action committee — is another indicator of tensions within the party over how to define itself following the 2020 election.
Brian Robinson, who was a spokesman for Republican Nathan Deal when he was Georgia’s governor and who advised Greene’s primary opponent John Cowan, said Greene’s appeal is undeniable but should not be seen as the direction in which the Republican Party is going.
“She is not representative of the national party any more than Rep. Omar is representative of national Democrats,” he said. “But MTG does represent a segment of the party. I would imagine though that next year in some competitive primaries, where candidates are seeking the support of the most conservative voters, that you will see some people trying to get her endorsement in the primary and then try to never mention it in the general.”
But she has received support from Trump, who even after his electoral defeat remains the driving force behind the party’s embrace of a nationalistic brand of populism. In January when Greene was facing calls from Democrats to resign she said she received a call of support from the former president.
“I had a GREAT call with my all time favorite POTUS, President Trump!” Greene wrote on Twitter. “I’m so grateful for his support and more importantly the people of this country are absolutely 100% loyal to him because he is 100% loyal to the people and America First.”
While Greene has received inquiries from conservatives to help them fundraise, her spokesman Nick Dyer said her team is just beginning discussions about when she will start fundraising or campaigning for “America First” candidates to help “build a team of strong conservatives to join our efforts to hold, as she calls them, the House of Hypocrites, accountable for their actions.”
How she will use her fundraising prowess is unclear — she could use some of it to pay herself back the $950,000 she personally loaned her campaign — but her total could make her a more formidable force within the party.
“Money offers politicians power and influence; she had a record take. This shows undeniable influence. Her anti-establishment approach to politics is what allowed her to really successfully fundraise, especially off of the January 6th insurrection,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.
“Nevertheless, I think it comes with an asterisk that influence comes with a negative side with her colleagues and party leadership, and certainly further harms her ability to work with Democrats. And it’s not like she is just a stellar fundraiser with an ability to churn donors. It was a confluence of events.”
Greene’s bombastic style has contributed to her ability to draw attention, and the money flowed after some of her more controversial statements or actions, according to Greene and her aides.
As Democrats were contemplating removing her from the House Education Committee after videos from 2018 resurfaced showing her taunting Parkland High School shooting survivors on Capitol Hill and making other incendiary comments, Greene remained defiant and announced she had raised $1.6 million from supporters. She later tweeted that she had raised $175,000 the day before Democrats and 11 Republicans voted to remove her from all her committee assignments.
She said she saw another significant bump in fundraising after she began to slow down House floor procedures in an effort to draw attention to the Democrats’ legislative agenda.
In an interview with The Washington Post last month, Greene said conservatives across the country were “rewarding me so nicely with small-dollar donations” each time she employed delaying tactics on the floor. “The people love it.”
A Republican operative familiar with her first-quarter fundraising numbers expressed astonishment that when Greene posted a video of herself working out in her D.C. hotel room after falsely claiming that gyms in the city were closed due to the pandemic, it prompted roughly 5,000 individuals to donate that weekend. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss fundraising disclosures that remain private until detailed in Greene’s FEC filing.
Greene has tried to meet supporters where they live online when raising funds and has done so successfully. Previous filings show that Greene spent $318,000 on “digital advertising for fundraising” on Parler, an alternative social media group used by conservatives, making it her second top expenditure during her entire campaign.
Dyer blames social media giants, saying decisions by Twitter and Facebook to take down some of Greene’s posts are a reason the congresswoman chose to target conservatives on other channels.
“She’s going where the people are,” he said. “There’s no strategy other than the fact that there are people there, and we’re going to talk to the people. There’s nothing sinister.”