The libertarian lawmaker wants to be a known name, whether he runs for the Senate or not.
The young conservative known to Republican colleagues as the most reliable “no” vote in Congress is trying to build his political brand—and collect the campaign cash that comes with it.
Maybe it’s for a Senate run. (Justin Amash still won’t say.) But what’s certain is that the Michigan Republican wants to be seen as the go-to libertarian in the House—a position he’s been trying to fill since Ron Paul left Congress.
“Regardless of what my decision is [on the Senate race], I think it’s important to get out there, spend some time throughout the state and try to spread the message that I’ve been spreading here and in my district—the message of limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty,” Amash said.
Amash, in his second term, has already earned a reputation as one of the libertarian stalwarts in Washington. After the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs were revealed, Amash was sought out by reporters and lawmakers alike. When he introduced a bill with Democratic Rep. John Conyers to limit the NSA’s targeting of phone records, dozens of members, in both parties, asked to become cosponsors. And last week, as the House considered an appropriations bill for the Defense Department, Amash pushed an amendment to defund the NSA’s surveillance.
But those limited accomplishments don’t easily penetrate the donor class beyond the Beltway and his own district. So now, Amash is focused on bolstering and broadening his fan base.
Last week, the lawmaker attended a series of fundraisers in the vast expanse known as Metro Detroit—on the opposite side of the state from his district. He met with well-heeled Republican donors in Birmingham, chatted with the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce in Southfield, and held private gatherings with a smattering of other business groups, according to a source close to Amash.
And last month, he quietly launched a national mail campaign, targeting wealthy libertarian-leaning donors in places such as Florida and California, the source confirmed.
Amash is seeing a return on the investment already. According to his newly filed report to the Federal Election Commission, he raised roughly $220,000 in the second quarter of 2013—significantly more than the $125,000 he raised in the first quarter and easily eclipsing his haul from the second quarter of last year.
Still, these improved second-quarter numbers are not particularly strong for any member of Congress, much less someone considering a Senate campaign. As a point of comparison, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who also weighed a Senate bid, raised more than $420,000 during the same period. And their Michigan colleague, Rep. Gary Peters, who entered the Senate race in June as the Democratic favorite, raised more than $1 million.
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