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NRCC Alters Telemarketing Contract

The National Republican Congressional Committee recently restructured its contract with InfoCision Management Corp., the telemarketing firm it has paid millions to over several election cycles to prospect for small donors.

The renegotiated contract was approved at a meeting of the NRCC’s executive committee last week, one of several “routine housekeeping” issues on the agenda, according to NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.).

Cole said the changes will give the committee more flexibility and better ability to react to market forces. The contract with Akron, Ohio-based InfoCision, the primary telemarketing company used by the NRCC, is renegotiated each cycle.

“We think we negotiated a good deal,” Cole said Friday.

He said the new contract will give the committee “freedom to decide when and how we invest” in phone banking. NRCC Finance Director Janice Knopp briefed Members at the meeting on the InfoCision contract as well as fundraising efforts overall.

So far this year, the NRCC has spent $14 million on telemarketing. Cole said some of that total — roughly $2 million — was spent on services rendered in the previous cycle that weren’t billed until this year.

Republican fundraising overall this election cycle is down about 25 percent, Cole said. The NRCC, like its Senate counterpart, has struggled to keep pace with Democrats but the NRCC is an especially difficult financial position because of its effort to pay down a large debt left over from last cycle.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who heads the audit division within the Executive Committee, said Members are aware of the financial realities and are committed to doing what needs to be done to make up the difference.

“We still have more debt than any of us would like to have,” Conway said. He also indicated that the committee’s fundraising was strong in October, a total that will not be publicly reflected until the Nov. 20 monthly report.

As of Sept. 30, the NRCC had $1.6 million in cash on hand and showed more than $3.8 million in debt. Conaway said the committee plans to pay the debt down to zero.

With news of two more Republican retirements on Friday, the NRCC must now defend 16 open seats in 2008.

Also last week, GOP pollster Neil Newhouse gave a presentation Thursday at the weekly GOP Theme Team meeting attended by House Republican Members and staff.

During the PowerPoint presentation, Newhouse used polling data to break down the current issue and political environment — one that tilts toward Democrats as the GOP continues to face a significant branding deficit.

Polling has shown that while Congress has abysmally low approval ratings, when broken down by party, the approval rating for Democrats in Congress is higher than it is for Republicans. Democrats also hold a 10-point advantage on the generic ballot.

One bright spot for Republicans in the polling is that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nod, continues to underperform compared to the generic ballot.

Still, the picture for Congressional Republicans does not look very rosy.

“We may pick up a few seats here and there in the ‘red’ districts that Democrats picked off because of scandal and corruption, but we have to basically try to hold our losses next time to 10 seats, and then rebound in 2010,” said one GOP aide who attended the presentation.

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