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Members Say They’ll Give DCCC $400K

House Democrats pledged to pony up more than $400,000 in checks this week to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, after party leaders leaned on Members for sitting on hefty bank accounts.

Members offered up the cash Tuesday at the weekly leader’s lunch sponsored by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Sources said the check writing followed a promise by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) to give $250,000 overall this cycle.

Inslee promised to pay his DCCC dues of $100,000 and offered to match the contributions of any exclusive committee member by $10,000, up to another $150,000.

Key sources at the meeting said Inslee made the pledge after calling himself “part of the dead man walking caucus” — one of the few Members ousted in 1994 during the Republican revolution but later re-elected. Inslee was first elected to the House 1992, but came back representing a different district in 1998.

Inslee said Wednesday he believes Democrats are riding a wave similar to the one Republicans rode to the majority 10 years ago. He said he made the substantial pledge to “make the strongest statement I could that we have a chance to win the House this year.”

“It seemed to provoke some energy [among colleagues],” Inslee added. “That’s the desired effect. The reason I’m in a position to do this is because I saw what can happen in ’94. We need to recognize the volcano we’re standing on. The volcano is rumbling.”

Joining Inslee in making a large pledge was Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who promised to give $100,000 by the week’s end and urged fellow Members to follow suit. Lewis, according to Democratic aides, told his colleagues “to get off their butts” and help, adding that Pelosi, and DCCC Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.) cannot do it all on their own.

According to one leadership aide at the meeting: “Lewis said, ‘I don’t want to preach, but if we want to win we all have to pay dues. You got to get off your butts and raise money.’”

“People basically started bidding,” the source added. “Members started standing up to pledge.”

Matsui said in an interview that the recent string of pledges from Members is “just astonishing.” He said that the Caucus is “acting like a family” and that “Members really feel there is an opportunity to win.”

Sources noted that beyond Lewis and Inslee, Reps. Marion Berry (Ark.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Donald Payne (N.J.), Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Jim Cooper (Tenn.) also promised to pay part of their DCCC dues, with checks ranging from $10,000 to $70,000.

In trying to encourage more pledges, Pelosi told Members that, “she is the queen of the silent treatment,” according to knowledgeable sources. Pelosi explained that “when soliciting contributions, she has become quite good at staying quiet on the other end of the telephone line” until Members agree to give to the DCCC.

As of May 31, the DCCC had raised $47 million.

The anteing up comes after a recent push by Pelosi and Matsui on Members to get them to match and exceed their party dues heading into the June 30 filing deadline for Federal Election Commission financial reports. The two hosted a similar lunch last week in which Democratic targeting expert Mark Gersh laid out the 2004 political landscape for House Democrats.

Matsui told Members at that private session that the DCCC has upped its fundraising goal by $17 million, and that they must help the committee meet that target. He also reminded Members that they are sitting on $87 million in their campaign accounts, and have no excuse not to help out.

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