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Vulnerable Democrats Get Boost

A House Democratic program to help 11 vulnerable incumbents has surpassed its initial expectations for 2006, raising nearly $200,000 in just two months by attracting wealthy donors from K Street.

Four prominent business-friendly Members, led by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), said Tuesday that as of the June 30 Federal Election Commission reporting deadline, they raised $186,550 for the threatened lawmakers.

Some 11 Members, including the 10 vulnerable Frontline Democrats, are benefiting from the effort, which began late last year but was re-launched in earnest in April.

Organizers, including Hoyer and Reps. John Tanner (Tenn.), Ellen Tauscher (Calif.) and Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), wanted to kick off the program early in the cycle to ensure that needy Members secure contributions that enable them to fend off possible challengers. That group, all moderates with ties to the business community, is tapping into lobbyists and allies on K Street — traditionally a fundraising stronghold for Republicans.

“The early success of the program is an indicator that K Street is receptive to supporting House Democrats, and most notably our marginal Members,” Hoyer said. “The business community is key to helping re-elect these Members and ensuring Democratic victories in 2006.”

Hoyer, along with the three other lawmakers heading the initiative, is hosting a thank-you dinner tonight for the more than 50 donors who have participated so far. Those donors were asked to write or solicit checks of $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 directly for the vulnerable Members.

The 2006 Frontline Democrats are: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Melissa Bean (Ill.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Chet Edwards (Texas), Stephanie Herseth (S.D.), Brian Higgins (N.Y.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Charlie Melancon (La.), Dennis Moore (Kan.) and John Salazar (Colo.).

The 11th Member, Darlene Hooley (Ore.), is not officially a Frontline member, but is considered potentially vulnerable.

For 2005, the program’s focus is on raising money for those vulnerable Members. Next year, the organizers will turn their attention toward top-tier candidates.

Matheson, who has reaped $30,000 from the effort so far, said in an interview that it’s a “smart move” for Democrats to look to K Street for financial help. He added that any help by his colleagues to help Members raise money is “extremely helpful.”

“I think it’s appropriate,” he said. “There are lots of us with pro-business voting records. At the end of the day the lobbying community and interest groups find value in supporting both sides of the aisle.”

Bean, who has taken in $30,000 for her reelection, said early fundraising is invaluable for Members like herself who are assured grueling battles in 2006.

“The more people aware of the challenges we are facing, the better,” she said. “Early support can make a difference.”

Herseth added, “I am grateful for all of the help my colleagues have provided in raising the early money to help put me in position to run a strong re-election campaign next year. I am particularly grateful for this group’s commitment to new Members and those in tough districts.”

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