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GOP Widens Money Lead

Two Campaign Committees Still Planning Fundraisers This Week

The Republican Senate and House campaign committees continued to stretch their financial edge over their Democratic counterparts in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission last week.

The National Republican Congressional Committee raised a whopping $8 million in the month, bringing its total take to $15 million for the cycle. This number does not include the more than $5 million raised at its March 18 Spring Dinner.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raked in $1.4 million in February, bringing its total this cycle to $3.2 million. The DCCC take is double the amount of hard money the committee has ever raised at this point in a cycle.

The DCCC’s annual dinner — still set for March 25 at the Washington Hilton, despite the war in Iraq — will be the largest single event of the year for the committee. In 2002 the fundraiser brought in $2 million, the same amount the committee expects to net this year.

The fundraising disparity is less obvious on the Senate side, as the National Republican Senatorial Committee brought in $2 million last month, for a total of $3.2 million raised since Jan. 1.

The committee will pad this total tomorrow with a dinner saluting Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Held at the Capital Hilton, the event is part of the committee’s Inner Circle spring meeting.

Frist is expected to speak at the event, where entertainment will be provided by legendary soul singer James Brown.

A spokesman for the committee would not provide an estimate of how much the dinner might raise, and also held the door open to a last-minute cancellation based on events in Iraq.

“At this point we’re operating under the assumption that we will go forward, but a lot can change over the next few days,” NRSC spokesman Dan Allen said Friday.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $890,000 in the month and $1.6 million total in the 2004 cycle.

Although Republicans outpaced Democrats in total funds raised, they also spent considerably more, leaving them with a smaller cash-on-hand advantage.

House Republicans have already spent $13 million this cycle, leaving them with $2.3 million in the bank, only $200,000 more than the DCCC had netted through Feb. 28.

The NRSC had $1.1 million on hand compared to the DSCC’s somewhat anemic $286,000 cash total.

All of the committees except the NRSC are still carrying significant debt left over from bank loans taken out in the final days of the 2002 election.

The DSCC actually increased its debt slightly from the end of January and now owes $6.2 million.

The NRCC paid down $1 million of its arrears, ending February with a $5.3 million debt. The DCCC still owed $5.6 million.

The NRSC, in contrast, owed just $386,000.

The numbers seem to fulfill dire predictions made by Democratic consultants and other party strategists that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which Congress passed last year, would cripple their efforts to stay financially competitive with Republicans.

The new law bans the raising and spending of soft money by national party committees. While Republicans have a huge network of potential contributors from which to solicit hard-money donations, Democrats had grown increasingly dependent on large checks from a handful of wealthy donors over the past few cycles to fund their political operations. Those donors will now be limited in what they can give to the party.

Last cycle, the DCCC, the DSCC and the Democratic National Committee collectively raised $246 million in soft money compared to $250 million brought in by the NRCC, the NRSC and the Republican National Committee.

The hard-money side was heavily tilted toward the GOP, however, with Republicans raising $442 million to Democrats’ $217 million.

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