NRCC Sends Crew to Collect Dues

Posted April 20, 2010 at 6:52pm

House Republicans are so determined to have Members fulfill their fundraising quotas this year that they have enlisted two of their own to act as the NRCC’s repo team.

With the blessing of National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), Reps. Kevin Brady (Texas) and Tom Cole (Okla.) have assembled a 14-member whip team whose only mission is to collect dues from Members who have failed to meet their fundraising goals.

“It’s a brutal exercise in peer pressure,” said Cole, a former NRCC chairman. “This is a critical point for us.”

Cole said the stakes are too high to let any outstanding debts slide since, for the first time in several years, Republicans have great opportunities to pick up a host of House seats.

But with the wider field comes the greater need for cash, and there, Cole said, the GOP still has a problem.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Tuesday reported raising $9.8 million in March, while the NRCC raised $8 million.

The DCCC ended March with $26 million in cash on hand compared with the $10 million that the NRCC had at the end of last month.

“If we don’t have the money, it’s fully on the shoulders of the Members,” Cole said.

Cole said each member of the whip team would be given a list of Members who are not meeting their fundraising obligations. If they are not able to collect the funds, Cole said he and Brady would be “batting cleanup.”

“We are basically backing them into a corner and badgering them,” Cole said, adding that if he and Brady can’t persuade the offending Member, leadership will step in.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) “loves hearing excuses why people can’t perform,” Cole said.

While little can be done to punish Members who do not give to the committee, Sessions told Roll Call that the slight would not soon be forgotten.

“We want everybody to be all in,” Sessions said. “And those that are not will be duly noted.”

Last year, Boehner and other leaders repeatedly asked Members during closed-door meetings to pony up outstanding financial commitments. At one meeting, Members with unpaid balances were handed envelopes and encouraged to fill them with the money still owed to the committee.

At the Republican retreat in January, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) called on Members who had fulfilled their obligations to the NRCC and gave them shirts reading “I Want It Back,” referring to control of the House. He then told those Republicans who had not fulfilled their dues requirements that if they paid up that day, he would match their contributions and give them the credit for the extra funds.

Republican leaders’ focus on Member dues appears to be paying off.

While in the first year of the cycle, the NRCC collected about one-third of the Democrats’ $16.3 million in transfers from Member campaign committees, but Republicans won the transfer war in January and February.

In January and February, Republican Members transferred $2.3 million to the NRCC. The DCCC received $700,000 in transfers over the same time period.

And while several Members who have yet to pay their “NRCC assessment” — a combination of Member dues and fundraising requirements for the party’s March dinner — only a few have given nothing to the fundraising committee.

Reps. Henry Brown (S.C.), Brian Bilbray (Calif.) and Phil Roe (Tenn.) have not donated to the NRCC yet this cycle, and Reps. Elton Gallegly (Calif.), Timothy Johnson (Ill.) and Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) also appear to have not contributed. Rep. Parker Griffith (Ala.), who switched to the GOP in December, is also not on record as having donated to his new party yet, according to a review of the latest fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission.

Roe spokeswoman Amanda Wilson said the freshman lawmaker has been working hard to raise money for the committee and plans to fulfill his fundraising commitment.

“He is on a solid pace with this effort to help ensure that the NRCC has the resources to help Republicans get elected and reclaim the Majority,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Hoekstra’s office declined to comment. The Michigan Republican is running for governor.

Brown, who announced earlier this year that he would retire from the House, is running for Berkeley County supervisor.

Steve Danon, Bilbray’s chief of staff, said Bilbray has been focusing on raising money for his re-election campaign since his seat remains a Democratic target.

Cole said that like bill collectors in the real world, no excuses would be taken.

“We will approach every Member multiples times” until they pay their dues, Cole said. “We need every Member to participate.”