Reid Leads Fundraising Drive

Posted September 22, 2010 at 6:50pm

September is prime fundraising time in Washington, D.C., for Congressional incumbents, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is setting the pace — holding at least four big-ticket events in less than two weeks to finance a precarious re-election bid.

Democratic lobbyists said the Nevada Democrat’s latest fundraising drive is aggressive, but they noted that the Majority Leader has been furiously raising money throughout the 2010 cycle, which is not unusual given that he is the Senate’s top Democrat and a leading Republican target. Reid is attempting to stave off a stiff challenge from former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R).

“His fundraising has never lacked intensity, but it is definitely at a high volume just because the stakes are so high,” former Reid senior adviser Penny Lee said Wednesday. Lee is president of Venn Strategies, a Washington lobbying firm.

Reid’s recent fundraisers include a
Sept. 15 breakfast at a Capitol Hill hotel hosted by the freshman Democratic Senate classes of 2006 and 2008, as well as a Sunday noontime event at the McLean, Va., home of former Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb and his wife, Lynda, whose co-hosts included Christopher Nassetta of Hilton Worldwide and George Vradenburg of America Online Inc. Suggested contributions ranged from $500 to $2,500 for the breakfast and from $1,000 to $5,000 for Sunday’s event.

Reid also held a fundraiser Wednesday morning at the Capitol Hill restaurant Charlie Palmer Steak, hosted by the political action committees of the American Wind Energy Association, Edison International, ITC Holdings Corp. and the Solar Energy Industries Association. The suggested contributions for that event ranged from $500 to $2,500. And today, Reid is scheduled to hold a lunch fundraiser at Dutko Worldwide that is co-hosted by Union Pacific Railroad and CTIA, an industry association of wireless telecommunications companies.

“This will be one of our last events in Washington, D.C., before the election in November,” read an invite to the Wednesday morning event at Charlie Palmer’s that was sent out by Reid campaign operative Josh Alcorn. “I encourage all of you to attend and to pass this invite along to your clients and colleagues.”

[IMGCAP(1)]Angle, who emerged from the Republican primary nearly broke, is also feverishly raising money. She raised more than
$1 million online in September alone, according to GOP sources. Sources also said Angle is in good enough shape financially that the National Republican Senatorial Committee only reserved $700,000 worth of television time for the race thus far.

The conservative advocacy group American Crossroads has spent about $2 million to try to defeat Reid. The organization is advertising on television and funding get-out-the-vote activities in Nevada as part of an eight-state effort to help Republicans retake the Senate. Other conservative groups are also expected to get involved to help Angle, a favorite of tea party activists.

Reid’s latest fundraising offensive in Washington comes as the Senate once again debates the campaign finance measure called the DISCLOSE Act, which would implement new federal limits on campaign contributions in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that struck down previous regulations. Reid campaign spokesman Jon Summers made no apologies for the Majority Leader’s aggressive push to raise money in recent weeks, and he said it is not inconsistent with his boss’ support for the DISCLOSE Act. Summers said Reid needs to do what’s necessary to defend himself from GOP attacks.

“The Republicans continue to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Sen. Reid,” Summers said. “To run a competitive campaign, we need funding to get our message out, build ground operations, get our vote out on Election Day.”

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez said Wednesday that Reid has no choice but to tap into all available donors networks. The New Jersey Democrat said lobbyists might not always be happy with how Reid votes on their issues, but they know he will approach each issue fairly.

“The Majority Leader has an open ear. They won’t always agree with him, and obviously we have passed plenty of legislation that many people in this town don’t like,” Menendez said. “But the difference is, I think he has a fair and balanced approach. He’s always willing to listen and to consider what they have to say. But he’s going to make decisions on what’s in the best interest of Nevadans and the best interests of Americans.”

Lobbyists call Reid’s fundraising operation among the most vigorous they’ve seen in Washington, saying the Majority Leader and his allies aren’t shy about repeatedly soliciting money. One Democratic operative said a fitting slogan for Reid’s campaign would be: “You are never truly maxed out to Harry Reid.”

Some veteran lobbyists said Reid’s campaign is even bolder than the 2004 operation of then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.), who raised nearly
$19 million to try to fend off a challenge from now-Sen. John Thune (R). GOP lobbyists said Reid’s camp has urged them to ignore fundraising appeals from Angle.

Angle was in Washington last week for meetings and fundraisers. But one GOP lobbyist said a Sept. 16 Angle event was not well attended. This GOP operative said the Reid campaign also warned lobbyists not to donate to Sue Lowden when she was the frontrunner in the Nevada GOP primary campaign.

“Fear of any Majority Leader is part of lobbyists’ survival instincts. It was the same with Daschle. Reid is quite a mean guy about this stuff. It is very personal,” the Republican lobbyist said. “Reid and Daschle are similar, but Reid scores higher on the fear index.”