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Clyburn Pushes New DCCC Dues System

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s ledgers could soon record more than dollars and cents under a proposal put forward by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D).

The South Carolinian, recently appointed along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to be a vice chairman of the campaign committee, said he will recommend substantial changes to the current accounting system that tracks only fundraising and Member dues paid to the DCCC.

“We are going to talk about how we value Members’ contributions … and all of the contributions may not be financial,” Clyburn said.

Under his proposal, which he described as “a more Member-friendly approach,” lawmakers would still be tracked on traditional fundraising and dues, but they also would be eligible for “credits” for visits they make on behalf of candidates or incumbent lawmakers, including costs associated with travel.

“When Congressman ABC gets on the plane and flies to the district of a Member running out in Ohio, what value do we put on that trip?” Clyburn said. He noted that during the 2006 cycle, he traveled to 26 districts, typically paying for travel, hotel and incidentals out of his own pocket or campaign funds.

“Every one of those trips, I have bought the plane ticket … motel and whatever other expenses … but none of that shows up in the DCCC report,” he said.

In addition, Clyburn said the credits could reflect visits made by Members to districts other than their own, citing as an example the work of Congressional Black Caucus members who often are called on to serve as keynote speakers at local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter events.

Clyburn was tapped for his DCCC role partly because of his ties to the CBC as well as to the moderate Blue Dogs. CBC members have been among the loudest complainers in past years about the leadership’s pressure on lawmakers for DCCC dues.

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who will meet with Clyburn this week to discuss the proposal in detail, said the two have had preliminary discussions on the topic and that it is something he will consider.

In the meantime, Clyburn, whose new duties include facilitating campaign appearances by fellow Caucus members as well as wrangling dues payments, has pushed ahead with his own fundraising efforts, paying $700,000 of the $800,000 dues required from House leaders, exceeding dues paid to date by any other Member, including fellow leaders.

“It shows an extremely strong commitment,” Van Hollen said. “He’s at the front of the pack. … He’s leading by example.”

Clyburn has raised $300,000 for incumbents and candidates this year while donating another $300,000 to campaigns. His re-election committee has raised $1.3 million this cycle.

“I can’t ask people to do things I’m not willing to do,” Clyburn said, noting that he plans to complete his dues payments before the Christmas holiday to avoid any suggestions that he is “lagging” on his dues in the 2008 cycle.

“I’d rather be way out in front of that,” he added.

The South Carolina lawmaker also is focused on raising funds for his colleagues, with events planned in both Florida and New York, and he said he has been urging Members to make their own dues payments in the meantime.

“All of this is about relationships,” Clyburn said.

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