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Durbin Becomes Second to Give DSCC a Million Dollars

Correction Appended

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) last month became just the second Senate Democrat to contribute at least $1 million to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this cycle, joining Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) as the party’s 2008 million-dollar men.

Durbin, who like Kerry has a large bank account and is facing a smooth ride to re-election on Nov. 4, quietly wrote his $1 million check to the DSCC on Sept. 16. Kerry handed over his $1 million to the campaign committee on Sept. 24 but, unlike Durbin, made his contribution public in an e-mail to supporters.

Overall, Senate Democrats have been fairly generous to the DSCC this cycle, and regularly heeded the call for cash by the committee’s aggressive chairman, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.). From July 1 through Oct. 15, Senate Democrats shelled out $5.36 million to the campaign committee, about a fifth of its total haul for that time period.

Schumer’s contributions from Senate Democrats have been relatively easy to wrest, however. With just a dozen incumbents up for re-election this cycle, and only one seemingly in a tough race, most have campaign funds to spare.

Still, Schumer said Tuesday that he’s not taking the support of his Democratic colleagues for granted.

“Democratic Senators almost to a person have stepped up to the plate and immeasurably helped our fundraising by placing phone calls, making contributions and holding meetings,” Schumer said. “Whatever success we have is directly attributable to their hard work.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Democrats have an incentive. Schumer set a target this cycle of trying to attain a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority – a lofty goal but one they could reach if the party experiences an Election Day wave of support. Democrats currently hold a narrow 51-49 seat majority.

Durbin himself is pitted against Republican Steve Sauerberg, and the latest polls give him a more than 20-point advantage heading into Tuesday’s election. Durbin, while already popular in Illinois, has the added benefit of sharing the ticket with home-state colleague and Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama.

Mike Daly, Durbin’s campaign manager, said his boss “thought the best use” of his resources “would be helping to get more Democrats elected in the Senate.”

“Senator Durbin wanted to do what he could to make sure the Senate Democratic candidates have the resources needed to win next Tuesday,” Daly said. “It’s an exciting year and the Senate seats within reach across the country continue to grow.”

But Durbin and Kerry aren’t the only incumbents who have been generous to the DSCC in recent months.

Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.), who is facing off against a little-known Green Party candidate Rebekah Kennedy, gave the DSCC a $400,000 check in the past three months. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who handed over $250,000 in June, gave another $400,000 in September, and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) recently offered the DSCC $250,000.

Other 2008 incumbents such as Sen. Joe Biden (Del.), now the Democratic vice presidential candidate, gave $250,000 in the past three months, while Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) contributed $400,000 and Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.) gave $150,000 at the end of September.

In addition to the confident Democratic incumbents, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), who is up in 2012 and was among the million-dollar contributors in 2006, offered up another $250,000 in September on top of the $250,000 she gave in June. As of the end of September, the DSCC had raised $117 million and had $26.3 million in the bank. The NRSC had brought in $74.3 million and had $17.4 million on hand.

Correction: Oct. 29, 2008

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was misidentified. He is the Majority Whip.

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