DSCC Turns to Mantz as New Finance Chief

Posted February 2, 2004 at 6:39pm

Continuing its staff overhaul, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will name lobbyist and party fundraiser extraordinaire Jonathan Mantz as finance director today.

Mantz’s hiring signals the death knell of the New House PAC, an organization he helped form after the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act last year to collect hard- and soft-money donations for Democratic House candidates. The organization will immediately begin to refund the cash it had left on hand to contributors.

In an interview Monday, Mantz said the 2004 election cycle represents a “new chapter on DSCC fundraising,” given the inability of party committees to raise soft money.

“It gives us an opportunity to focus on the races,” said Mantz. “It is a real opportunity to have some pickups and generate some new fundraising and new donors.”

The DSCC began the year roughly $6 million behind the National Republican Senatorial Committee in cash on hand despite raising just $3 million less during the course of 2003. It also carried roughly $2 million in debt left over from last cycle.

Mantz called the fundraising disparity “marginal,” adding: “Republicans had a very small advantage with them being in the majority.”

In a memo sent to Democratic Senators last week, DSCC Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) explained that the majority of the organization’s off-year expenditures went to expanding its hard-dollar contribution base through telemarketing, e-mail and Web solicitations.

Mantz predicted that the committee’s fundraising will pick up rapidly this year as “greater focus and greater attention” is dedicated to the 34 Senate races on the docket.

Democrats must defend 19 of their seats to 15 for Republicans. The party is further disadvantaged because five Southern Senators are retiring, forcing difficult and expensive races for each seat.

Mantz replaces Linda Rotunno, who recently left the DSCC to run Corzine’s leadership PAC.

Corzine praised Mantz’s “leadership and proven abilities,” noting he will be an “invaluable asset to the DSCC.”

Mantz has a long history of party fundraising, beginning in 1993 when he helped raise funds for the Democratic National Committee.

After a stint at the National Jewish Democratic Council, Mantz joined the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1998 as national fundraising director. He went on to serve as the DCCC’s finance director in 2000 and 2002.

Media consultant and former DCCC Executive Director Howard Wolfson, who worked hand-in-hand with Mantz during the 2002 cycle, called him “the best fundraiser in the party. Period.”

“No one can draw more blood from a stone than Mantz,” Wolfson added.

Mantz’s hiring completes a series of major staff changes within the DSCC over the past month.

Former Executive Director Andy Grossman left the committee in January and was replaced by David Rudd, a lobbyist and former chief of staff to Sen. Fritz Hollings (S.C.).

Ann Lewis, a former Clinton administration official, was also recently added to the committee staff as deputy executive director.

Mantz’s decision to take the new position means the end of the New House PAC, he confirmed Monday.

Mantz and Wolfson founded the group, though Wolfson severed his ties late last year.

Momentum for the organization, which had both a federal arm for hard-dollar contributions and a 527 component for soft-money donations, had slowed over the summer and by last fall it had almost completely ceased operations.

In its year-end filings with the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service, New House PAC showed just $50,000 on hand — $20,000 in hard money, $30,000 in soft.

Its sister organization, the Democratic Senate Majority Fund, met with a similar lack of fundraising success.

DSMF brought in $46,000 in federal contributions and just $20,000 in nonfederal contributions over the last six months of the year.

Both groups struggled to raise money with the shadow of the lawsuit over BCRA looming over them and with the Democratic presidential campaign dominating donors’ attention — and wallets.

The announcement by House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) late last year that he would hold a hearing on the legality and activities of these 527 groups by all accounts provided a further chilling effect on contributions.