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DCCC Ups Member Dues

Acknowledging that it takes big money to win elections, House Democratic leaders are doubling the dues they pay to the party campaign committee and imposing major increases on other senior Members.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is seeking a 17 percent hike in Member dues payments this cycle, according to a leadership letter to lawmakers this week obtained by Roll Call. Last cycle, the DCCC set a goal of $25 million from Members, which represented one-third of its overall fundraising target.

“In order to fund our recruiting effort and continue confronting vulnerable Republicans, it is imperative that the entire Caucus do their part early to support a new majority in the House,” the letter from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) said. “Your early support will help demonstrate our strength and enable us to continue to expand the political playing field.”

Member dues in the 2006 cycle range from $100,000 for rank-and-file lawmakers to $600,000 for the Caucus’ top leaders. Last cycle, the amounts ranged from $70,000 to $300,000.

“This reflects the cost of doing business if we are going to win the majority — plain and simple,” said one Democratic leadership aide.

The three leading House Democrats — Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) — are required to give the most this cycle, $600,000 apiece. That’s twice what the three leaders were tasked with contributing last cycle.

“Leaders definitely doubled their own dues and are taking the biggest hit,” said one senior Democratic staffer.

The leaders are followed by the five other top elected or appointed House Democrats, who are being asked to kick in $400,000, a $100,000 hike over 2004. Caucus Vice Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.), Emanuel, Assistant to the Minority Leader John Spratt (S.C.), and Steering Committee Co-chairmen George Miller (Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) will have to meet that new threshold.

Democratic sources said their leaders are coming out earlier than ever in making a push for Member dues. Also, the DCCC has set more uniform expectations than in the past, based almost solely on committee assignments and Caucus positions. In the past, Member dues requirements varied widely within committees based on an individual Member’s district, re-election vulnerabilities and fundraising abilities.

According to the campaign committee letter, House Democrats are seeking a 30 percent hike in their overall fundraising this cycle. In 2004, Democrats set a target of about $75 million and ended up raising $82 million. The committee is still laboring under an $11 million debt.

Beyond the eight most powerful Democrats, the eight Chief Deputy Whips are being asked to pony up $100,000 more this cycle, or $250,000 apiece. Exclusive committee ranking members, meanwhile, must double their dues and pay $300,000 to the DCCC.

Members throughout the Caucus were still getting word of the dues hike, and reviews were mixed.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), a Chief Deputy Whip, said she’s happy to meet the new requirements and will do her part to encourage others in the Caucus to meet their obligations as well. Democrats will never be allowed to advance their agenda unless they win elections — and that takes money, she said.

“Because we care so much about the issues, we need to work even harder toward 2006 to be in the majority here,” she said.

Rep. Jay Inslee (Wash.), who is being asked to give the DCCC $150,000 this cycle, said leadership is “sending the right message” by setting the higher standards.

“Every team I’ve ever been on, the one thing I’ve found is the teams that are committed to each other and share mutual goals are the ones that win,” he said. “We need all cylinders firing if we’re going to take back the House.”

But other Members said they are reluctant to continue writing checks when the Democratic leaders haven’t proved they are doing what it takes for candidates to win.

“It’s not just a matter of raising the money, it’s a matter of spending it wisely and effectively,” said one Democratic lawmaker, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Exclusive subcommittee ranking members must now shell out $250,000, while other ranking members are being asked to give $200,000 to the DCCC. All other exclusive committee members — or those sitting on Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, and Ways and Means — are required to give the party $150,000.

Nonexclusive committee ranking subcommittee members will be asked to pay $125,000, while regular rank-and-file Members must give the DCCC $100,000.

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