Washington – When Rep. Jahana Hayes decided to run for Congress last year, she had no political experience and deep worries that she could raise enough money to run a credible campaign.
Hayes, a Democrat, began her run for Congress later than other candidates, including her GOP rival Manny Santos, because the former history teacher did not decide to enter the race until former Rep. Elizabeth Esty announced she would not run for re-election, And that was just about six months before November’s election.
Hayes needn’t have worried. She raised nearly $1.9 million to win the 5th Congressional District seat that stretches across the northwest section of the state – thanks in part to the generosity of those who would be her Capitol Hill colleagues.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Democratic members of Congress gave Hayes a total of $187,050 in the last election cycle, more than any others linked to a specific industry, interest group or profession.
Lawmakers, including members of the House Democratic leadership like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., gave to Hayes from their personal campaign committees and from their leadership political action committees.
“Her support from members of Congress demonstrated the faith that they had in her ability to hit the ground running on behalf of the people of the Fifth District,” said Hayes campaign spokeswoman Barbara Ellis.
The donations may have also been spurred by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s decision to make the race a priority. Other freshmen, including Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., received much less money from Democratic lawmakers.
The center’s analysis focused on donations in the amount of $50 or more, because federal election law requires the disclosure of the donor’s workplace and occupation.
Other than the money from fellow Democrats, Hayes’s fundraising was not unremarkable for a member of Congress from Connecticut.
The second largest group of donors to Hayes’s campaign were lawyers and lobbyists, who gave about $130,000. Third on the list were people and PACs tied to the securities and investment industries. Those financial interests gave the Hayes campaign about $112,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Individuals and PACs in the educational field were 11th from the top on the list of donors, contributing $37,291 to the campaign of the former history teacher and former National Teacher of the Year.
Each member of Connecticut’s delegation to the U.S. House raised more than $1 million in political cash in the last campaign cycle. And Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, raised $2 million, the only member of the House delegation to attract more political money than Hayes.
Connecticut’s lawmakers raised most of their campaign money in a traditional way, from constituents and people employed by home-state industries, or lobbyists and others representing special interests in Washington, D.C. related to the lawmakers’ own committee assignments.
That’s why the top donors to the campaign of Rep. John Larson, who represents the Hartford area and sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, were individuals and PACs tied to the insurance industry, who gave $260,774.
For Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who represents Electric Boat and Naval Submarine Base New London and sits the House Armed Services Committee, the top group of donors were tied to defense.
In the last campaign cycle, health professionals accounted for the single largest contribution from a group to the campaign of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District. She is the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee with authority over the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Himes, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, raised $274,367 from the securities and investment industry, followed by $174,055 from the insurance industry, $105,375 from the real estate industry and $103,575 from commercial banks.
University of Connecticut political science professor Ronald Schurin said the donations from industries with business before the House Financial Services Committee may have made Himes “more receptive to their pleas regarding the onerous burden of regulation.”
“But I cannot think of any behavior by any of these representatives that seems to be influenced by their donors,” he said.
Schurin also pointed out that none of Connecticut’s lawmakers had competitive races last year.
“So the motivation for those who donated was not to win an election, but to maintain a friendship with an incumbent,” he said.
The Center for Responsive Politics also analyzed contributions to the campaigns of Connecticut’ senators from 2013 to the end of last year.
Sen. Chris Murphy raised more than $15 million in that six-year period, with lawyers and lobbyists topping the lists of donors and contributing about $1.3 million to the senator’s campaign.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal raised more than $9 million, nearly $1.6 million from lawyers and lobbyists.
Blumenthal sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee.