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Joint Committees Help Democrats Raise $1M

Attempting to wring every hard dollar from willing donors, Senate Democrats utilized joint fundraising agreements to raise nearly $1 million for both their top candidates and their endangered incumbents in 2003, year-end financial reports filed with the Federal Election Commission showed.

Democrats’ aggressiveness is due, at least in part, to sluggish fundraising by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the wake of passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which banned national party committees from raising unlimited soft-money donations.

Democratic Senators and top-tier candidates raised $912,000 for the DSCC through such committees in the fourth quarter of 2003, accounting for roughly one-seventh of the $6.3 million the organization raised in the period.

Joint fundraising agreements “not only help our candidates raise money but also introduce them to a larger group of donors,” said DSCC spokeswoman Cara Morris. “We are on one team.”

Republican JFCs brought in just $10,000 for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the fourth quarter. The committee raised $5.3 million total from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

“Joint fundraising agreements give us the opportunity to max out donors who are interested in strengthening the majority,” said NRSC Communications Director Dan Allen.

Under a joint fundraising agreement, donors can cut a single large check, which is then divvied up between the candidate and the committee after expenses for events have been paid out.

Although the dollars that go to the party committee are not earmarked for the particular candidate that helped raise the money, they are “attributable,” which means they are traceable back to the joint fundraising committee where they originated.

Because they are typically created as a holding tank for money raised at particular events, joint fundraising committees have minimal infrastructure and cost little to maintain.

Prior to the passage of BCRA, the candidate would receive the first $2,000 as a hard-money contribution with the remainder of the funds going to the party committee in the form of a soft-money donation. Such soft-money contributions could be made in unlimited amounts.

Now, the candidate typically receives the first $4,000 as a hard-money donation with the committee receiving the rest. National party committees can accept individual contributions of up to $25,000 per year.

Seven incumbent Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2004 have joint committees with the DSCC, as do former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, Rep. Joe Hoeffel (Pa.), state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (S.C.) and former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, all of whom are running for Senate.

In addition, Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Barbara Mikulski (Md.) have a second committee (Women Senate 2004), and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), who is not up for re-election until 2006, also has an agreement with the DSCC — Clinton-DSCC Victory Fund.

Bowles’ committee, the North Carolina Victory Fund, was by far the most active over the final three months of 2003, raising $637,500.

Bowles received $48,500 of the take from the joint fundraising committee; the DSCC reaped $582,500.

Bowles, who is running for the open seat of Sen. John Edwards (D), raised a total of $2.1 million in his campaign committee from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31. He had $1.9 million on hand.

Susan Lagana, spokeswoman for Bowles, said only the campaign was “glad to have [the DSCC’s] support and interest in this race.”

Rep. Richard Burr is the odds-on Republican nominee against Bowles.

While Burr has not yet created a JFC, he has been a shining star for Republicans on the fundraising front, ending the year with $5 million in the bank.

In all of 2003, Boxer led the pack, bringing in $1.2 million through the Boxer-DSCC ‘04. She raised $254,000 in the final three months of the year.

Murray, a former DSCC chairwoman, raised $340,000 through her joint agreement, while Wyden brought in $268,000.

Considered one of the most endangered Democratic Senators coming into the cycle, Boxer is in a stronger-than-expected position as Republicans have a somewhat lackluster field.

Boxer had $5.3 million as of Feb. 11, roughly 20 times the amount her closest Republican competitor, former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, banked at that time.

Several Democratic incumbents and challengers did no fundraising through their joint accounts in the period.

Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.), Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Hoeffel and Tenenbaum were in this group.

Among Republicans, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) is the only incumbent up for re-election this year with a joint fundraising agreement with the NRSC.

Murkowski raised $19,000 into her committee as of Dec. 31. She is the lone Republican incumbent in serious jeopardy as she faces Knowles.

Murkowski ended 2003 with $1.4 million in her personal campaign committee; Knowles had $601,000, although he did outraise the incumbent by $171,000 over the final three months of the year.

Chairman George Allen (Va.) has two committees of his own tied to the NRSC.

The first, the George Allen Victory Committee, raised $277,000 in 2003; $94,000 went to his personal campaign account, $85,000 to his leadership political action committee and $10,000 went to the NRSC.

The second, known as the Inaugural Reunion Committee, neither raised nor spent any money in 2003.

The NRSC is expected to start several more joint fundraising agreements with a special focus on the South, where Democrats must defend five open seats.

“More are in the works,” said NRSC spokesman Allen.

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