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Committees Prepare for Big Ad Buys

In the final financial reports before what is expected to be a massive spending blowout in the campaign’s remaining 41 days, the two Republican Party Congressional committees retained a financial advantage over their Democratic counterparts.

The National Republican Congressional Committee once again led all four committees in fundraising, bringing in $6.1 million during the month of August.

That topped — barely — the $5.9 million raised by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month, a total that included a $3 million transfer from the primary campaign account of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D), the party’s presidential nominee.

The NRCC also outspent the DCCC by roughly $2 million ($4.7 million to $2.7 million) but retained a $26 million to $21 million cash-on-hand advantage.

In the three weeks since the reporting period closed, both party committees began doling out dollars on independent expenditures to benefit their candidates at a fast clip.

Through Sept. 21, the NRCC had spent roughly $1.1 million on polls, direct mail and television buys to support their candidates.

The DCCC had dropped $1.3 million in that time.

The two committees are on the air in Washington’s 5th district, where state Rep. Cathy McMorris (R) and former hotel executive Don Barbieri (D) are fighting to replace Rep. George Nethercutt (R).

The DCCC also is up on television in support of New York Assemblyman Brian Higgins, their candidate in the open 27th district race, as well as in Washington’s 8th district, where talk radio host Dave Ross (D) faces King County Sheriff Dave Reichert (R) for the seat of retiring Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R).

The NRCC is running ads to benefit former Department of Natural Resources Director Greg Walcher (R) in Colorado’s 3rd district, where Rep. Scott McInnis (R) is leaving the seat after six terms.

Both party committees have reserved television time in upwards of 30 other Congressional districts but have yet to pay for those buys.

On the Senate side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $1 million more than it raised in August as it worked to keep several races on the radar screen.

More than 20 percent of the $5.1 million the DSCC spent in the period went to independent expenditures ($928,000) and coordinated expenditures ($351,000).

The DSCC is currently on television in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Alaska in support of its candidates.

In Oklahoma, the DSCC ads appear to have pushed Rep. Brad Carson (D) into a slim lead over former Rep. Tom Coburn (R).

Coburn has not helped his own cause, making a number of impolitic comments including that the Senate race was a contest between “good and evil.”

While the DSCC’s spending has bolstered Carson, it left the committee in a significant financial hole.

At the end of August the National Republican Senatorial Committee had $22 million on hand; the DSCC had $10.5 million.

Democrats are quick to note that they have in hand $4 million in transfers from other campaign committees that will be reflected in their October quarterly report, which covers contributions and expenditures from July 1 to Sept. 30.

Kerry pledged $3 million to the DSCC, and Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid of Nevada wrote a $1 million check to the organization last week.

This is the first election cycle since passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which banned the raising and spending of soft money by the party committees.

In cycles past, the committees could accept checks in unlimited amounts from individuals, labor unions and corporations that could be spent on television commercials as long as they did not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a particular candidate.

Last cycle, the DSCC raised $95 million in soft dollars and $48 million in hard dollars.

The NRSC was less reliant on soft money two years ago but still raised $66 million. The committee raised $59 million in hard money.

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