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House Democrats Look to Veterans on Dues

Although it’s still early in the cycle, House Democratic leaders are keeping a watchful eye on a band of safe Members who are sitting on hefty bank accounts — but have yet to pony up for party dues.

Leaders are not at the worrying stage yet, but they do privately acknowledge that many Caucus members have already banked enough money to contribute to the party. So Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) are making an early push for dues payments in anticipation of a hard-fought 2006 campaign cycle.

The most recent dues tally sheet, obtained by Roll Call, shows that some 103 Members have yet to write checks to the DCCC. About two dozen of those Democratic lawmakers, however, are in solid financial standing and are almost assured an easy re-election.

“We have repeat offender people sitting on large bank accounts cycle after cycle who have refused to support our efforts by giving money that’s asked of them,” said a senior House Democratic aide. “These are the people we’re worried about.”

Added a Democratic leadership staffer: “For those Members who are worried about their races — that’s one thing. I think what the leaders are looking at is those folks who are sitting on a whole lot of money at a time when we want the coffers to be as full as possible to help our candidates as early as possible.”

Leaders are particularly mindful of Members who have at least $100,000 or even $1 million or more on hand, yet have paid little to none of their dues so far. They include many senior Members and holders of exclusive committee seats who have a greater dues obligation because of their standing and ability to raise money.

DCCC spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said she couldn’t comment to the specifics of Caucus dues payments, calling it “an internal Caucus document.” But she emphasized that Members paid dues in record levels last cycle, and added, “We expect an even higher rate of participation this cycle. Members often contribute after the first quarter.”

Among those Members who have yet to pay dues but who are sitting on sizable war chests are: Reps. Ed Pastor (Ariz.), a Chief Deputy Minority Whip, Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), the ranking member on the Rules Committee, and Nick Rahall (W.Va.), the ranking member on the Resources Committee.

House leaders are also keeping tabs on giving by several other Members, particularly those who hold ranking positions on exclusive committees or those sitting on exclusives. This category includes Reps. Rick Boucher (Va.), Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), Pete Stark (Calif.), Peter Visclosky (Ind.), William Jefferson (La.), Richard Neal (Mass.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Jim Moran (Va.), Frank Pallone (N.J.), Albert Wynn (Md.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.) and Brad Sherman (Calif.).

Sources indicated that Stark and Sherman have held back on paying early dues because they are worried about potential challengers in the next cycle.

Leaders are also keeping an eye on Reps. Neil Abercrombie (Hawaii), Robert Andrews (N.J.), Marty Meehan (Mass.), Bill Pascrell (N.J.) and Donald Payne (N.J.). Meehan has paid $15,625 of his dues, but is sitting on more than $4.5 million, according to the latest DCCC dues sheet.

Several Members’ offices insisted that it is still early in the cycle, and their bosses have every intention of doing their part for House Democrats. Others said their bosses are waiting to get a better sense of their 2006 outlook.

“While Members need to step up to the plate if we want to be competitive in this cycle, it is clearly very early and Members are still figuring their own political situation and what type of re-election they may face,” said an aide to a Democratic House Member who has yet to pay dues.

Slaughter’s spokesman, Eric Burns, said his boss — as she has in the past — will definitely come through for the party this cycle.

“Ms. Slaughter’s absolutely committed to paying her dues,” Burns said. “Obviously in first quarter she’s been focused on doing her job as ranking member of the Rules Committee, but she is going to be pursuing a more aggressive fundraising strategy in the coming months.”

Andrew Souvall, spokesman for Pallone, echoed those sentiments: “Congressman Pallone has been an enthusiastic supporter of the DCCC in the past, and will continue to support it down the line.”

Neal spokesman William Tranghese weighed in as well, saying his boss also is fully committed to helping the DCCC in its effort to win back a majority.

“Congressman Neal has been waiting to see if he has an opponent in 2006, however he has always paid his dues and fully intends to do so this cycle.”

Democratic leadership sources acknowledged that several Members may have their eye on Senate, gubernatorial and other races, and thus are holding on tight to their money.

Members in that category include Pallone, Andrews and Pascrell, who, along with Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.), have expressed varying degrees of interest in their state’s potentially open Senate seat, assuming current Sen. Jon Corzine (D) wins a gubernatorial bid and gets to appoint his successor. Menendez has yet to pay any dues, either.

Democratic Party dues range from a low of $100,000 for rank-and-file Members to a high of $600,000 for top leaders.

Because it is still early in the cycle, Democratic sources said leaders are not yet planning to employ any pressure tactics on these Members. But they are not ruling out that possibility in the future if safe Members fail to come through.

“It’s going to be looked at again months down the road,” said one well-placed Democratic aide. “People will make more decisions then.”

Until then, however, a Democratic leadership source emphasized that all Members have an obligation to help out the party if and when they can, and especially veteran and senior lawmakers holding safe seats.

“We have several junior Members who spend an extraordinary amount of time raising funds and doing whatever they can to help the cause,” the staffer noted. “So, when we see a senior Member who can easily support the DCCC, either with their cash on hand or through minimal fundraising, it is extremely frustrating.”

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