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Vice Chair Candidates Get Head Start on Dues

In what amounts to a test of their party commitment, the three House Democratic candidates for Caucus vice chairman have already paid a portion of his or her party dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But of the three, Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), has raised by far the most money for the DCCC. As chairman of the party’s Business Council, Crowley brought in nearly $1 million in the past four months.

Crowley also narrowly leads the three candidates in direct contributions, or dues, to the party. He’s given $32,500, which is 13 percent of his $250,000 two-year obligation.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) is close behind, having paid $30,000 — or 12 percent — of her $250,000 commitment. Rep. John Larson (Conn.) has written checks for $25,000, or 16.7 percent of his $150,000 requirement.

Crowley and Schakowsky owe the DCCC a larger share of money this cycle because they both serve as Chief Deputy Minority Whips, an internal leadership position; Larson, who sits on the exclusive Ways and Means panel but isn’t a Whip, owes slightly less.

Strong records of party and candidate fundraising are viewed as a key advantage in the quest for leadership slots. Members view those contributions as a sign of commitment to the party — and a key way to measure whether a candidate, if elected, will work aggressively to take back the House.

“There’s no question that it is going to play a major role,” said a Democratic leadership aide.

All three candidates also hold leadership positions at the DCCC. Crowley heads the DCCC’s business outreach program, while Schakowsky continues her role this cycle as chairwoman of Women’s LEAD and Larson serves as a regional vice chairman.

Due largely to his new role, Crowley has raised $905,500 for the DCCC this cycle. Schakowsky has raised $15,000, while Larson has yet to raise any funds on behalf of the DCCC.

“In past races we’ve seen how effective [raising money] has been,” said the Democratic leadership staffer. “Whether it’s been the race for leader or Whip or Caucus chairman, it has always played a role and was highlighted in those races.”

Said another senior Democratic aide: “One of the most important indicators of whether someone is ready to rise the leadership ladder is their ability to raise funds and their willingness to give it to those most in need, both incumbents and candidates. Few in the Caucus have the ability to raise large amounts of money, and there is a higher expectation on leaders. Aspiring leaders who understand that and demonstrate that they can raise the money become leaders.”

Larson, Schakowsky and Crowley are vying to succeed current Vice Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.), who cannot seek another term in 2006 and has announced plans to run for Caucus chairman. Clyburn’s dues this cycle are $400,000.

In an interview, Larson said he continues to show his support for the party and Democratic candidates even though he’s from Connecticut, a relatively small state. He added that he will hold two events on behalf of the DCCC this cycle, with a goal of raising $250,000.

Larson touted his past experience as the top Democrat on House Administration as an asset his colleagues don’t have, adding that the race isn’t just about fundraising but about a commitment to work hard, improve communication among offices and provide assistance to the leadership as it works to regain control of the House.

“People know my work on that committee and my willingness to roll up my sleeves and get the job done, and that’s what vice chair is all about,” Larson said.

Larson paid $175,000 in dues in the previous cycle — $25,000 beyond his $150,000 requirement. He said he also gave $35,000 directly to Democratic candidates, mostly threatened incumbents, and raised $250,000 for the DCCC.

Last cycle, Schakowsky paid the DCCC $165,000 in dues, which exceeded her $150,000 obligation. Also, as chairwoman of Women’s LEAD, she raised $1.3 million on behalf of the committee and gave another $18,000 directly to threatened incumbents.

Schakowsky also touted an event she hosted last cycle on behalf of the five most threatened Texas Democrats, raising $50,000 for their re-election campaigns.

“Electing more Democrats and gaining a majority in the Congress is essential to moving our Democratic agenda, an agenda that supports working families,” said Schakowsky. “I will continue to seek every opportunity to provide our incumbents and our challengers with the resources they need to win. That includes continuing to raise money for the DCCC, and for my campaign committee and my leadership PAC, which I use to help other Democrats.”

Crowley, for his part, paid $215,000 in DCCC dues last cycle, which exceeded his $150,000 obligation. He separately raised $450,000 for the party and contributed $110,000 to the most vulnerable House Democratic incumbents.

“Since Joe’s gotten here, he’s always been committed to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” said Crowley spokesman Chris McCannell. “Not only has he paid his dues, but he’s exceeded his dues. He’s privileged to represent New York City, the best city in the country for fundraising. So we’ve been able to turn to our friends who invest in our campaign and get them to invest in House Democrats.”

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