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NRCC Quickly Erases Debt

The National Republican Congressional Committee succeeded in erasing the $3 million debt it incurred during the last election cycle before the close of 2004 and will show $2.7 million in the bank when year-end reports come out later this month.

“After our tremendous victory, donors continued to rally to our cause,” said Carl Forti, the NRCC’s communications director.

At the end of the 2002 cycle, it took the NRCC roughly six months to erase the $7 million debt it had built up.

The NRCC’s financial status stands in stark contrast to the current position of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which reported more than $10 million in debt as of its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission. The committee did have nearly $4.8 million in the bank at that time, however.

DCCC officials had no new information on the committee’s debt status at press time. It is, however, the largest debt the committee has ever faced in the wake of an election.

Forti immediately went on the offensive about the disparity, calling any leftover debt a “noose around your neck.”

“It is a tremendous hole for [new DCCC Chairman Rahm] Emanuel [Ill.] to dig out of,” Forti added.

On the Senate side, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) announced recently that the $3.6 million debt accrued last year had been eliminated, thanks in large part to $1 million donations from both the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and the Democratic National Committee.

The remainder of the cash came from Democratic Senators.

“We are starting off this year debt free,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) proclaimed at a news conference announcing the fundraising accomplishment.

The NRSC had just $500,000 in debt as of Nov. 22.

All four party committees must file reports documenting their contributions and expenditures for the final five weeks of the year with the Federal Election Commission by Jan. 31. The reports cover activity from Nov. 22 to Dec. 31, 2004.

Debt is nothing new at the party committees, which routinely engage in a splurge of last-minute borrowing and spending to finance late-breaking races.

But, after the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in late 2002, the party committees were forced to use hard, federal dollars to pay back their debt rather than the easier-to-raise soft dollars that had been used in past cycles.

And, the committees must pay interest on any outstanding line of credit, forcing them to spend precious hard dollars on simply maintaining the debt until they are able to pay it off.

It took the two Democratic campaign committees more than a year to erase their debt in the 2004 cycle, a time table that pushed back early staffing and targeting efforts, according to some party insiders.

While the large DCCC debt is troubling to many within the party, those fears are somewhat allayed by the selection of Emanuel as chairman of the committee.

Though only in his second term, Emanuel has already flexed his fundraising muscle.

In 2002, he spent more than $3 million to win the open 5th district seat; two years later, despite no real opposition, Emanuel raised approximately $2 million between his campaign committee and his leadership PAC.

Emanuel has ties to several key fundraising blocs within the Democratic party due to his experience in the Clinton administration, his base in Chicago and strong ties to Jewish donors.

Emanuel also has moved quickly on several other fronts — notably recruiting.

He named Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen to head up the committee’s recruiting efforts and announced nine regional recruiting “leaders.”

Van Hollen, like Emanuel elected in 2002, heads up a group largely made up of younger Members.

Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Hilda Solis (Calif.) and Mark Udall (Colo.) will handle the West and Southwest; Reps. Betty McCollum (Minn.) and Tim Ryan (Ohio) will be charged with the Midwest; Reps. Artur Davis (Ala.) and Debbie Wasserman Schulz (Fla.) will oversee the South and Southeast; Reps. Mike Capuano (Mass.) and John Murtha (Pa.) will be the Northeastern recruiters.

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