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DCCC Kicking Off New Initiatives

Trying to gain some capital from dwindling Republican poll numbers, House Democratic leaders today will mark the 11th anniversary of the GOP’s “Contract with America” to kick off their latest 2006 political crusade called the “Campaign for Change.”

Democratic leaders will use the anniversary of the 1994 Republican revolution document to highlight what they view as GOP legislative failures and lay out reasons for a major political turnover next November. As part of the “change” theme, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also is hosting a major fundraising event Wednesday and unveiling this week a new Web site,

The latter is designed to raise money for its candidates, recruit 50,000 new campaign volunteers and push a national message that Democrats should be in charge come 2006.

“This is our official launch of our grass-roots attempt to energize voters and focus them on our theme,” said one high-level Democratic aide. “We’re about a year out from Election Day, we want to take our efforts out around the country to a whole new level.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will join the four other top House Democratic leaders this morning to outline what they see as flaws in the GOP Contract with America and failed Republican promises to make fiscal discipline and ethics cornerstones of the government. Those two themes have in recent months become major pieces of the House Democrats’ message.

“House Democrats stand for accountability and for new opportunity. The American people deserve more: Republicans have broken their promises, mismanaged trillions of taxpayer dollars, and presided over one of the most ethically troubled Congresses in the history of our nation,” Pelosi said. “Democrats stand for American families, not special interests, clean government and accountability, not a culture of corruption. We have big ideas such as progressive tax reform, retirement reform, health care reform, and accountability in Iraq.”

Sources said the timing is appropriate for the Democratic effort given that most Americans remember the Republican signing of the Contract with America six weeks before Election Day 1994, and remember the contract’s core themes. The leadership aide said as an alternative, Democrats are offering ethical leadership, fiscal discipline and policies that “put American families first as opposed to putting special interests first.”

On the Web site, DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) asks prospective contributors and volunteers to join “our campaign for change” and sign a pledge to “take back America for the people.”

“I am launching this project as a joint effort by the DCCC and Americans to bring about a new vision and a new direction for our country,” Emanuel wrote on the site.

“The DCCC has already started with hard hitting campaign ads and accelerated campaign recruitment. But we must build the most crucial resource of any campaign: Committed Americans who will take our national Democratic movement into their local communities.”

Carl Forti, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that whatever the latest Democratic strategy is, it will fail.

“They’ve suggested these same kinds of themes in 2000, 2002 and 2004 and see how successful they were,” he said. “Until they get some good candidates and raise some money, there’s not a whole lot they can do.”

Those two goals, however, appear to be foremost on the Democrats’ minds.

As part of the “change” kickoff, House Democrats are holding one of their largest annual fundraisers Wednesday night, the Fall Gala, hosted by the No. 2 House Democrat, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.). The fundraiser is one of the DCCC’s major events this cycle, and will feature a dozen of the Democrats “top tier” candidates in 2006. It is expected to draw several hundred guests and raise $1 million.

“The Fall Gala is an especially exciting event because it is helping kick off the new campaign for change and is going to showcase some of the top Democratic candidates from around the country,” Hoyer said.

Democratic leadership sources said the latest party effort is not about slogans and catch phrases, but rather about helping educate the electorate that there is an alternative to the GOP.

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