No Match: Super Bowl Meets BCRA

Posted January 23, 2004 at 5:59pm

The death of soft money appears to have brought about the death of lavish Super Bowl fundraisers for the various party political committees.

A quick survey of the six national campaign committees found that only the Democratic National Committee is hosting any kind of fundraiser at all during the Jan. 30-Feb. 1 Super Bowl weekend in Houston.

DNC spokesman Brian Richardson said the committee is hosting a low-dollar event at the Doubletree Hotel at the Houston Galleria geared to young professionals who may feel politically disenfranchised. There will be a particular emphasis on reaching out to black voters, Richardson said.

Before the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002, party committees considered Super Bowls the ideal place to woo their biggest donors, who often cut huge checks at parties arranged to coincide with the hoopla and festivities. But with soft money banned, the parties have come to the conclusion that the yield at a Super Bowl fundraiser doesn’t justify the expense.

“It reflects that BCRA is working in that it has closed off avenues of soft-money fundraising,” said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

On top of the changing fundraising climate, a possible logistical hurdle may exist for Congressional Republicans: The fact that the House and Senate GOP’s annual retreat has been scheduled for Jan. 29-31 in Philadelphia.

The Republican National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are doing nothing at the Super Bowl this weekend, according to committee spokesmen. Neither is the National Republican Senatorial Committee — despite Chairman George Allen’s (Va.) football fanaticism and lineage. His late father was a coach of the Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Rams, and his brother is a former Oakland Raiders official.

The National Republican Congressional Committee isn’t hosting a fundraiser in Houston on Super Bowl weekend, but it is kicking off a two-day, five-city Texas fundraising tour Feb. 2, featuring House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and GOP Members from the Lone Star State.

“It was a coincidence,” NRCC Communications Director Carl Forti said of the timing of the Texas swing, “but it probably means the chairman gets to go [to the football game].”

The fundraisers are slated for San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Midland and Houston.

DeLay is also expected to participate in fundraisers for Celebrations for Children Inc., a charity he helped set up last fall.

Meanwhile, a political candidate with a legitimate excuse to be in Houston next weekend will apparently not be taking advantage of the opportunity — at least when it comes to beefing up his campaign treasury.

North Carolina Senate candidate Erskine Bowles (D) is a minority owner in the Carolina Panthers, which will face off against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Susan Legana, Bowles’ finance director, said the campaign has not scheduled any fundraisers in Houston at this point.

Lauren Legard contributed to this report.