Roger Williams, a two-term congressman from the Dallas suburbs and longtime GOP fundraiser, will be the new chair of the House Conservatives Fund, a federal political action committee that’s been practically dormant for several cycles. The 65-year-old Williams, who cut his political teeth as a fundraiser for George W. Bush’s gubernatorial and presidential runs, says he plans to be a major fundraising force in the 2016 House races.
Williams will inherit the post from Republican congressman Bill Flores, who led the HCF through an underwhelming 2014 cycle. The PAC raised just over $820,000 for 2014. By comparison, the National Republican Congressional Committee raised more than $150 million in the same cycle. Williams says he wants to raise at least a million dollars by the end of 2015.
He’s got plenty of experience. In 1994 and 1998, Williams raised money as a regional finance chairman for George W. Bush’s gubernatorial races, and served in a similar role for the North Texas region (which includes Dallas) for Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential runs. He’s also raised money for Texas senator John Cornyn and the Texas Republican party. Williams has a competitive streak, too: At Texas Christian University, he was an ace ballplayer and even briefly played in the farm system for the Atlanta Braves.
In what sort of races would a newly robust HCF get involved? Williams cites the Florida Republican Steve Southerland’s loss, by less than a point, to Democrat Gwen Graham. In Williams’s estimation, a little more money from an outside group committed to helping conservative House members and candidates might have made a difference.
Williams says he sees the House Conservatives Fund taking on a similar profile to its namesake on the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Conservatives Fund. The SCF began in 2008 under the leadership of South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, raising millions of dollars for conservative Senate candidates. In 2010, the group’s first full cycle, DeMint and company raised nearly $10 million and supported plenty of successful candidates (Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson) along with some unsuccessful ones (like Christine O’Donnell). The SCF also earned the wrath of more establishment Republican groups like the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who saw DeMint’s gang as rivals who interfered in primaries that cost the GOP Senate seats.
For the House Conservatives Fund, Williams says he envisions a better working relationship with the established and powerful National Republican Congressional Committee. In our interview, Williams did not rule out getting involved in House GOP primaries, but he says he wants to emulate DeMint’s fundraising success and not the intraparty drama.
But perhaps NRCC chair Greg Walden of Oregon has reason to be suspicious. Last year, Politicoreported Williams was interested in Walden’s job. Some conservatives in the House conference have grumbled that the NRCC’s dues were too high and money wasn’t always spent wisely. Conservative members like South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney began looking for an alternative way to help conservative candidates like those who might join the Republican Study Committee. Williams, a bona fide conservative and a veteran fundraiser to boot, seemed like the perfect choice to lead a revived HCF.
“Everybody loves Roger,” says Mulvaney. “Roger’s a great salesman.”
Joining Williams at HCF is Georgia congressman Lynn Westmoreland as deputy chairman. Westmoreland has been deputy chairman at the larger National Republican Congressional Committee. Westmoreland’s office declined to comment.