Rep. Lauren Boebert and the politics of outrage: Why lawmakers reap rewards from firebrand tactics – USA TODAY

When video surfaced of Rep. Lauren Boebert making anti-Muslim comments about her colleague Rep. Ilhan Omar, other lawmakers were quick to condemn her.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., called Boebert “TRASH” on Twitter. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., wrote that the Colorado Republican’s comments were “Shameful, deeply offensive & dangerous. Yet another blatant display of Islamophobia targeting (Omar).”

While Boebert’s incendiary remarks on Nov. 20 likening Omar to a terrorist prompted some Democrats to call for Boebert to be disciplined, the comments also instantly raised her profile, which experts said may fuel campaign contributions. Those contributions could put Boebert in a stronger position to win reelection in 2022 and boost her clout within a faction of conservative lawmakers who are also known for inflammatory statements.

The calls to discipline Boebert came on the heels of the House censuring Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for posting an anti-immigrant anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. In February, the House removed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from her committees for actions that included posting a campaign ad of herself holding guns next to three members of the group of liberal lawmakers known as “The Squad”: Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

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Before her latest comments, Boebert was already a prolific fundraiser who hauled in $2.8 million in the first nine months of 2021, according to her filings with the Federal Elections Commission. The average House candidate running in 2022 raised $426,283 during the same time period. The median was $161,411. 

“The average person who might give political donations in this country probably couldn’t name another member besides Lauren Boebert in the House, but they do know who she is, so that automatically expands her fundraising base,” said Alison Craig, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

‘We are not a scapegoat’

Brendan Quinn, a spokesman for the Campaign Legal Center, a government watchdog group that supports enforcement of campaign finance laws, said the right “has a media operation that can’t be matched and puts these people out in front of their very very loyal potential donors.” He pointed to networks like Newsmax, where Boebert appeared Thursday to discuss her comments about Omar.

Tlaib, who is also Muslim, said at a news conference Tuesday that she should not have to stop speaking out against Islamophobia out of fear that the media attention is helping people like Boebert raise money. “We are not a scapegoat,” she said. “You can’t raise money off of violence towards us. That’s enough.” 

Boebert’s comments also came about a month after she created a joint fundraising committee with Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, a former mayor of a Dallas suburb who said during her tenure that Muslims were trying to impose Shariah law in the United States and who in 2016 received an award from an anti-Muslim advocacy organization critics have described as a hate group.

The joint fundraising committee, which has not yet reported how much money it has raised, will make accounting easier if the two decide to hold joint campaign appearances. The pair also will be able to essentially pool their donor lists so Boebert’s donors can support Van Duyne and vice versa.

USA TODAY analyzed fundraising by six of the most prominent Republicans known for inflammatory rhetoric and fundraising by the six members of the “Squad” and found that the Republicans are doing better. The six Republicans raised an average of $2.8 million from Jan. 1 through the end of September, while the “Squad” members raised an average of $1.9 million.