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Kerry Pledges $1M to DCCC

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) last week donated $500,000 in leftover presidential primary funds to his party’s House campaign arm and pledged to raise another $500,000 for House candidates, the latest sign that he continues to nurse an active interest in a 2008 race.

Kerry cut the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee a check on Thursday, boosting the DCCC’s war chest on the day before the first-quarter fundraising books closed.

The cash infusion comes at a critical time for the DCCC, which found itself mired in more than $11 million of debt at the end of February.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) co-authored a “Dear Colleague” letter Monday informing the Caucus of Kerry’s largess.

“John Kerry has a strong history of fighting for a Democratic House,” the duo wrote. “We are delighted that he is asserting national leadership at this critical time.”

Kerry also vowed to hold events that would collect another half-million dollars for top-tier challengers and targeted incumbents.

Bill Burton, a spokesman for the DCCC, would not speculate on the committee’s current financial standing, saying only that “we are still counting checks.”

Reports detailing contributions and expenditures from Jan. 1 to March 31 are due at the Federal Election Commission by April 15.

Katharine Lister, a spokeswoman for Kerry’s Keeping America’s Promise political action committee, said that “Leader Pelosi and DCCC Chair Emanuel have a smart plan to make real Democratic gains in the House of Representatives. Sen. Kerry wants to help them re-elect Democratic Members and pick up seats across the country.”

Republicans currently hold a 29-seat House majority after making gains in each of the past two elections.

The contribution bolsters Kerry’s already impressive record of giving to the party since he lost the presidential race in November 2004.

Already this year, Kerry has donated $1.25 million to the Democratic National Committee and $1 million to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Last December he chipped in $500,000 to the Louisiana Democratic Party to aid candidates in two House runoffs, and $250,000 to the recount effort in the Washington gubernatorial race.

In addition, Kerry gave $3 million each to the DCCC and the DSCC during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Despite those donations, there was some grumbling among House Democrats that Kerry had not yet lavished any money on the DCCC in 2005. That led Massachusetts Reps. Ed Markey and Barney Frank to each reach out to the Senator.

At the end of 2004, Kerry had nearly $10 million in excess funds in his presidential primary committee. He had another $5 million in a separate legal and compliance account.

Kerry has also done a handful of events for Senate colleagues in the past three months, including two for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and several for fellow Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, both of whom are up for re-election in 2006.

He is also expected to raise money in the coming weeks for Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa (D), a major Kerry backer during the presidential race who is squaring off with Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn (D) in a May 17 runoff. Kerry is also scheduled to make a swing through Texas in two weeks.

Even Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, got into the fundraising act last quarter, hosting a March 4 event for Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Strategists affiliated with Keeping America’s Promise insist that his focus is on building the party in the run-up to the 2006 election. But his flurry of donations clearly show that he also has an eye on a return run for president.

By making large donations to the various party committees, Kerry remains a player on the national stage while also collecting chits with various Democratic Members.

Though the Massachusetts Senator has been the most generous with his time and money to this point, other Democrats with White House aspirations are not ceding the field to him.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (D) traveled to the key caucus battleground of Des Moines, Iowa, for two days last week, including a March 31 fundraiser for Rep. Leonard Boswell, the state’s only Democratic House Member. Boswell has been a Republican target in both the 2002 and 2004 cycles, though he has won both elections comfortably. Edwards has also done an event for Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D).

Although Clinton has largely focused on raising funds for her own re-election so far this cycle, she is in discussions with the DSCC about scheduling events for later this year.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who has said publicly that he is considering a presidential bid, is scheduled to host a DSCC event in May.

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