When the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee sent out its first solicitation of the year for the March 5 chairmans dinner, it was more than the average Washington fundraising pitch.
It marked the first of several ways that the CBC PAC, under the direction of PAC Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), is trying to increase its reach with the business community, labor unions and individuals outside the Beltway to bulk up its campaign coffers.
We look to be very aggressive, Meeks said of his efforts to revitalize the PAC.
I think we need to be out there to help Democrats retain the seats that we won and look at other seats we can win both for CBC and African-American candidates and non-African-American candidates.
To do that, Meeks is implementing a national fundraising scheme that will have the CBC PAC looking to tap donors in urban centers such as Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta and Detroit.
We are going to be going across the country raising money, Meeks said. By doing that, we also keep a presence for the CBC out of the Beltway.
Added Meeks: The best way we can be helpful to the DCCC is to go into districts and raise money.
Additionally, Meeks, who became chairman after former CBC PAC Chairman Al Wynn (D-Md.) lost in a primary last year, says he expects the CBC PAC to use Internet fundraising for the first time.
The CBC PACs Web site, which is currently under construction, will allow donors to contribute directly to the PAC.
The CBC PACs intake peaked during the 2006 elections when it brought in more than $590,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In the 2008 cycle, the PAC raised about $390,000.
Meeks, who took over as PAC chairman last May, is looking to increase that total.
The exact schedule and plan to broaden the PACs footprint is still being developed, but lobbyists involved with the CBC have already noticed a difference.
Greg is going to be very aggressive, Wynn said. Hes come in with some great ideas about fundraising here in Washington and getting outside of Washington for fundraising.
Meeks has certainly shown fundraising prowess for his own re-election. His leadership PAC, the Build America PAC, raised nearly $180,000 last cycle.
Hell be using those strong ties to the downtown community in his new role, according to his longtime political adviser and CBC PAC board member Mike McKay of Federal Strategy Group.
Hell also have the help of his colleagues and from people downtown who are on the 17-member PAC board, including McKay, Wal-Mart lobbyist Kimberly Woodard, William Kirk of K&L Gates and Marcus Mason of the Madison Group.
Meeks has already reinvigorated the chairmans dinner, the groups annual kickoff fundraising event.
The fundraiser, which suggests attendees give $5,000, is considered an intimate event where donors get to spend one-on-one time with CBC members.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) are all expected to attend.
Also expected to be present are CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Meeks.
The event is nearly sold out, according to Jessica Knight, CBC PAC executive director.
While the PACs schedule of events is still being established, Meeks is already getting support from downtown.
Former CBC Executive Director Paul Brathwaite of the Podesta Group says he has committed the firm to a fundraising event for the group.
I want to help them raise their visibility and recruit other members, Brathwaite said. To the extent theyre just getting started, he added, we want to be a part of the process.