Roskam mapping next House chapter, doubling down on fundraising

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., is talking about his failed bid to move up in House leadership and his path ahead, which includes maintaining a robust fundraising operation to benefit other Republicans in advance of the November elections.

“One thing that is important is that I am committed to continuing to raise money, and I will be doubling down,” Roskam is telling me. “I have seen the importance of it. I know how significant it is and how helpful it is.

“When I ran in 2006, I was the beneficiary of a lot of help from a lot of sitting members and sitting members can play a very significant role and so I intend to be very, very active.”

Roskam, whose tenure as chief deputy whip is coming to an abrupt end, is setting the stage for a comeback, though nothing specific is in his scope right now. 

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told me in an email, “Look, I lost my first leadership job in 1998. It hurt like hell. But I put my head down, did my work and became a committee chairman, then House Majority Leader, and — eventually — Speaker of the House. I have no doubt — none at all — that Peter Roskam is the kind of man who will have a great future in the House.” 

The Wheaton lawmaker told me he will be taking a deeper dive into his Ways and Means Committee work. He’s also prepping for his new assignment on the House Benghazi panel, with hearings pushed back to the fall. It’s a potentially high-profile perch.

Leaders, and this is true for Republicans and Democrats, are expected to be major fundraisers, especially members like Roskam, who has a safe district and a major committee assignment. 

He has $1,143,860 cash on hand in his main campaign war chest. Michael Mason, the Naperville Democrat challenging him, didn’t even raise enough to have to file a report with the Federal Election Commission. In addition, Roskam raises substantial money through his leadership PAC, with most proceeds going to GOP contenders or political committees.

A reason Roskam vaulted into leadership was being a team player when it comes to fundraising. Since 2006, Roskam has funneled nearly $2 million to the GOP House political operation.

Roskam is aiming to contribute to every GOP contender with a big race in 2014 and stump for the Illinois House candidates in tough battles.

Since 2011, when he ascended into leadership, Roskam has headlined about 50 fundraisers, raising about $1 million for GOP members.

Will he run again for a leadership post? “I think everything is on the table in terms of all of these discussions,” he tells me. 

What is settled for Roskam, 52, is that his place is in the House. He said he is not interested in positioning himself for an eventual Senate run nor, in the event GOP nominee Bruce Rauner is beaten by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, does he covet the governor’s mansion down the road.

“I intend to try to grow and play an active role in the House. That’s the institution that is in front of me right now,” Roskam says.

We are talking in his Cannon House Building office. His desk once belonged to former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. 

Hastert sent Roskam  his old wood desk when Roskam became chief deputy whip, a first rung on the leadership ladder. Before Hastert, the desk belonged to two other Republican Illinois lawmakers in leadership over the past decades.

Through the years, Roskam delighted in the obvious symbolism. Now he has been forced to recalibrate.

The surprise defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the June 10 Virginia primary — and Cantor’s decision to step down as a leader on July 31 — triggered a scramble. The current whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who appointed Roskam as his deputy, won the majority leader spot. 

Roskam’s bid to replace McCarthy as whip was bested by Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who won a three-way competition. 

“My colleagues made a geographic decision to have a member in the leadership from a red state,” the blue state Roskam says. 

Roskam was bruised when Illinois GOP colleagues Rep. Aaron Schock and Rep. John Shimkus were public in helping Scalise. I asked Roskam if there was any repair work to be done.

“They gave me their consideration, and that’s all they owed me,” Roskam says, declining to say much more.

A surprise for the conservative Roskam was the accusation from some colleagues that he was a moderate. “I’ve been called a lot of things, but not that.”

The Ways and Means panel handles taxes, health care and trade. He is looking to plow some new ground in attacking Medicare fraud in “using technologies that are predictive and forward thinking.” In the coming years, Roskam could be up for a Ways and Means subcommittee chair. 

Roskam’s defeat, accepted with grace, is a repairable setback. 

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate, told me Roskam has “widespread respect” despite the loss and will be “an impact player on the Ways and Means Committee.”

Ryan told me it took him awhile to get over his 2012 defeat. But Roskam, he says, “has already recovered. He’s moving on.”  

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