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Leaders Seeking More Cash in DCCC Coffers

House Democratic leaders made an impassioned final plea Thursday night to get their rank and file to cough up more money for their effort to expand the party’s majority, just as Members are set to head home to hit the campaign trail a month before Election Day.

In a closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) implored their colleagues to come up with the $14 million in Members’ dues needed to meet their overall $50 million goal, according to people who were present.

At the outset of the cycle, Van Hollen told lawmakers that the committee’s goal was to raise $150 million, with $50 million each coming from political action committees, individual donors and Members.

Sources said the leaders impressed upon Members that making up the financial disparity would make the difference in the size of their majority next Congress. Democratic lawmakers who are not politically in danger or in competitive races are collectively sitting on roughly $153 million in their re-election accounts, according to party tally sheets.

“We need to make sure we wake up the morning after Election Day and that we have no regrets,” Pelosi told the Caucus. “We will have the money from major donors and from the grass-roots donors. Where we are short is the Members. The moment of truth is now.”

Several Members announced on the spot that they were writing checks, according to sources in the room.

Rep. Chet Edwards (Texas), who is included in the DCCC’s “Frontline” program for vulnerable incumbents even though his re-election in November seems certain, said he wouldn’t be in Congress if it weren’t for the generosity of the Caucus and announced he was giving $100,000 — news that elicited audible gasps from his peers.

Emanuel, who chaired the DCCC last cycle, made reference to the slew of Republican-held seats where recent polling shows Democrats within the margin of error or ahead.

“This is about choices,” Emanuel said, announcing he would give another $50,000. “Please step up.”

Rep. Ron Klein (Fla.), one of the Democratic freshmen elected in 2006, told colleagues that he was giving another $100,000 on top of the $100,000 that he had already given the DCCC.

As the competitive House battleground has expanded to upward of 80 seats, Van Hollen has repeatedly argued that the committee has more opportunities than it can afford to pay for.

On Thursday afternoon, the DCCC blasted out a news release that touted the party’s growing momentum in a number of GOP-held seats. The release cited a new round of race rating changes made by the Cook Political Report, including moving Republican Reps. Phil English (Pa.), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Fla.) and Joe Knollenberg (Mich.) to tossup — an indication that they are just as likely to lose as they are to win.

The DCCC has enjoyed a massive financial advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee this cycle. As of the end of August, the DCCC had $54 million in the bank compared with the NRCC’s $14.4 million.

The DCCC has also begun to open the floodgates on TV advertising in the last week.

Through Wednesday, the DCCC had spent $15.4 million in independent expenditures, the bulk of which fund expensive TV ad buys. There are 23 districts where the DCCC’s IE has already spent at least $300,000, including four where the committee’s spending is more than $700,000.

The NRCC had spent just $247,000 on IEs as of the beginning of the month.

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