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Committees Carry Debt Into ’06 Cycle

The campaign arms for House and Senate Democrats will begin the 2006 cycle deeply in the red, as they seek to make up the ground they lost in both chambers in this year’s elections.

Still, Democrats are touting their overall fundraising efforts for the 2004 cycle, the first in which new campaign financing guidelines were in place and soft money was banned.

Post-general election fundraising reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission offer the first complete look at both parties’ finances in the run-up to the Nov. 2 elections and show where each committee stands heading into next cycle.

On the House side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee kept pace with Republicans in the weeks before and after the election, even narrowly outspending the National Republican Congressional Committee in the reporting period covering Oct. 14 to Nov. 22.

For the cycle, however, the NRCC far outraised and outspent the DCCC. Republicans raked in $175 million compared to the DCCC’s $91 million.

The DCCC also ended November with a debt of at least $10.3 million — the most of all four Congressional campaign committees. At the start of the cycle, the DCCC showed almost $6 million in debt.

DCCC spokesman Greg Speed said the committee is “not the slightest bit concerned” about the party’s ability to pay down the debt.

“Given … the increased attention that the battle for the House will receive this cycle and the money that will flow into House campaigns, this debt is really nothing we are overly concerned about,” Speed said.

Democrats lost two House seats in the Nov. 2 elections. Two more races were decided Saturday in Louisiana runoff elections, after Roll Call went to press.

Speed touted the party’s ability to keep pace with the GOP late in the campaign, calling it “remarkable.”

“House Democrats defied every expectation by nearly matching the NRCC dollar for dollar down the stretch of this campaign,” he said.

The new reports show the DCCC spent $27.7 million in the final 40-day period, while the NRCC spent $27.4 million. The NRCC raised $15.9 million in the period, and the DCCC took in $15.6 million.

The NRCC ended the period owing $3 million in loans, significantly less than the $7 million debt the committee shouldered at the start of the 2004 cycle. That debt was completely paid off by the committee in May 2003.

House Republicans showed $2.8 million left in their coffers on Nov. 22, while Democrats had $4.8 million.

Reports filed since the close of the post-general reporting period show both parties have continued to spend heavily on the two Louisiana runoffs that were held Saturday. Each House committee has spent more than $700,000 in independent expenditures to boost their candidates since Nov. 22.

In the post-general report period, Democrats outspent Republicans in independent expenditures, $22 million to $18 million.

For the cycle, however, Republicans outspent the Democrats by about $10 million on independent expenditures. NRCC spokesman Carl Forti argued Democrats had little to cheer about.

“We outspent them bottom line for the cycle,” Forti said. “We outspent them when it mattered most in September and October. I think the results showed we spent wisely and we picked up seats.”

One of the greatest discrepancies between the two House committees was in their spending on staff and salaries. Democrats, who paid volunteers and canvassers to help get out the vote, showed 1,437 expenditures for payroll totalling $1.1 million in the period. Republicans, meanwhile, paid a much smaller staff, spending $481,000 on 353 itemized salaries.

Both parties spent relatively similar amounts on polling. The NRCC spent $1.2 million on surveys, while the DCCC spent $1.1 million.

The NRCC also spent $2.7 million on phone banks, a costly but effective method employed to harvest new donors.

On the Senate side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee outraised its Republican counterparts for the last period and overall for the cycle. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee slightly outspent the DSCC in the final stretch before netting four seats.

The NRSC raised $6.2 million and spent $15.7 million from Oct. 14 to Nov. 22, when they showed a balance of $600,000 left in the bank. The committee’s only debt is a $500,000 loan. The DSCC, meanwhile, raised $10.1 million in the period and spent $14.2 million. As of Nov. 22 it had $2.1 million left over and $5.2 million in debts. Overall, Senate Democrats raised a total of $80.7 for the cycle, while Republicans raked in $74 million.

Last cycle, unregulated soft-money accounted for $95 million of the the total raised by the DSCC.

“I think that we turned post McCain-Feingold conventional wisdom on its head,” said DSCC spokeswoman Cara Morris, referring to early doubts that Democrats would be able to remain competitive in the post-reform era. “More importantly, what we’ve done is set a foundation for the next cycle.”

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