GOP Campaign Units Join Forces

Posted January 25, 2008 at 6:34pm

Facing a steep fundraising disadvantage this cycle, House and Senate Republicans are calling in the cavalry, setting up a new fundraising account that may allow cash-strapped Congressional party committees to distribute their fundraising burden more evenly among all 249 GOP Members of Congress.

The National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed papers with the Federal Election Commission recently registering the PAC Challenge Committee, a joint fundraising account shared by the two party committees.

The new committee will match donations from Republican House Members and Senators, channeling the combined contributions back to the new account. Once on the new PAC’s books, the two GOP party committees will divvy up the bundled contributions and transfer the proceeds back to the NRCC or the NRSC.

The committees can then spend the money or make transfers to their fast-growing list of open-seat challenges or vulnerable Members.

“The PAC Challenge Committee was set up as a friendly challenge between Members of the House and Members of the Senate,” NRCC spokeswoman Julie Shutley told Roll Call in an e-mail last week. “Not only does this create a little competition between the two chambers, but it is also a way for the Members to work together to make sure both campaign committees are successful.”

The new PAC also may allow the cash-strapped GOP party committees to address a new reality: doing more with less. As the minority party, many Republicans are standing by as PACs bloat the campaign accounts of Democratic agenda-setters.

Senate and House Democrats, too, are raising substantially more money per individual this cycle.

According to CQ MoneyLine, through Nov. 30, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $40.59 million from more than 10,000 individuals, who wrote checks averaging $3,746 so far this cycle. Through Nov. 30, the NRCC raised $31.55 million, but from more than twice as many donors, who wrote checks averaging $1,370 — a GOP average contribution roughly 65 percent smaller than Democrats.

Senate Republicans on average fared better, taking in an average of $3,514 from nearly 6,600 donors. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee received checks averaging $4,017 from more than 10,000 donors.

As of Nov. 30, the DCCC had $30.7 million in cash on hand, compared with $2.33 million for the NRCC. The DSCC had $25.5 million in cash as of Nov. 30, and the NRSC had $10.4 million.

By using the PAC Challenge Committee and other joint fundraising accounts, the GOP party committees may take advantage of vastly different contribution limits for individuals, leadership PACs and party committees, and a complicated set of rules stipulating how cash migrates among candidates, PACs and parties.

For example, an individual can give a typical House Member or Senator $4,600 every two years for their re-election campaign, $10,000 every two years for their “leadership PACs” and $28,500 every two years to the NRCC or other party committees.

But by using a complicated mix of leadership PACs, candidate committees and joint fundraising accounts, much more than the individual limit of $28,500 may eventually migrate back to the House or Senate party committee. The NRCC, NRSC, DCCC or DSCC can then redistribute the money to needy candidates through bank transfers, or ad buys, direct mail and other independent expenditures.

The PAC Challenge Committee did not file its first fundraising report before Roll Call’s press time, but the account already has begun raising money, according to campaign finance documents. NRSC Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) transferred $15,000 from his leadership committee, Battle Born PAC, to the new joint fundraising account late last fall.