Top Democrats Step Up DCCC Giving

Posted October 27, 2010 at 2:56pm

With their majority increasingly in danger, senior Democrats are digging deeper into their wallets to help out the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The last-minute haul for the DCCC comes as party leaders try to bolster their standing heading into a potential post-election scramble for power, with lawmakers wanting to avoid charges that they didn’t do everything they could to save the majority.

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who could seek an elected leadership position in the next Congress, got the ball rolling last week with a $700,000 check to the DCCC and another $100,000 in checks to individual candidates, making him the single biggest DCCC donor this cycle at $1.6 million. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) then leapfrogged Van Hollen with an expected $200,000 hike in his DCCC donations, bringing him to $1.75 million.

Hoyer’s re-election committee, Hoyer for Congress, will also be drawn down to about $500,000 or less by election night to help Democratic challengers and incumbents, according to a senior Hoyer aide. Since AMERIPAC, Hoyer’s leadership political action committee, is limited to contributing $5,000 per candidate per cycle and $15,000 to the DCCC per calendar year, he has shifted giving to his Hoyer for Congress committee, according to this aide.

At the urging of Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) and others, some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have stepped up their DCCC contributions in recent weeks. Clyburn has given $1.6 million in dues to the DCCC, doubling his DCCC dues goal, and he is going to dole out another $100,000 this week, according to his spokeswoman, Kristie Greco.

Clyburn has also recently cut checks to Democratic incumbents experiencing a late-breaking charge, including Reps. Solomon Ortiz (Texas), Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.), Bob Etheridge (N.C.), Gene Taylor (Miss.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.) and Ron Kind (Wis.), according to Greco.

But many CBC members are still well short of their dues goal for the cycle, despite the fact that most members of the group are in politically safe districts.

“Some of these people are representing states where there are numerous races that are competitive, and they still haven’t met their goals,” said a Democratic leadership aide, who questioned why CBC members in safe districts were lagging, given that “no community has more to lose than African-Americans if Republicans take back the House.”

House chairmen, subcommittee chairmen and would-be chairmen are also stepping up in the final days.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.) has increased his giving in the past week, as have the panel’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (Mass.) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone (N.J.).

The threesome had been criticized by some moderate Democratic aides for holding more than $8 million collectively in their accounts, despite having safe districts. The aides argued that they bear a special responsibility for helping vulnerable Democrats because they were the principal authors of the cap-and-trade and health care bills that many moderates cite as the chief causes of this year’s GOP wave.

Waxman’s campaign said he plans to give an additional $275,000 to the DCCC, bringing his total to $850,000. That’s $350,000 more than his dues and the most of any Democrat outside of leadership.

“This year I’m doing more than I’ve ever done before to help Democratic candidates get elected,” Waxman said, pushing back in an interview last week against criticism for sitting on about $1.4 million in his campaign coffers.

Waxman also is increasing his giving to individual candidates to $600,000, giving a combined total of nearly $1.5 million in direct aid. Waxman said he is doing more because his party faces an “unprecedented” situation because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allows an unlimited flood of undisclosed corporate campaign spending.

Markey’s spokeswoman, Kate Bazinsky, also said the Supreme Court decision is the “single greatest factor in this election,” and she said the cap-and-trade bill co-authored by Markey is not to blame for Democrats’ struggles this cycle.

“The number one issue in this race is Citizens United,” Bazinsky said. “That is the reason that this is such a difficult year.”

“Our members are definitely feeling it, but that’s why we’ve responded to it with $2.49 million” this cycle, she added.

Markey paid $250,000 in dues, plus another $200,000 to the party committee, and he has given an additional $83,000 to Democrats this cycle.

Pallone’s office defended the New Jersey Democrat’s contribution to the party, saying he has participated in nearly 10 events for members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Pallone, who reported more than $4 million in his latest Federal Election Commission filing, met his $250,000 DCCC dues goal. He also raised $542,000 for the DCCC, more than double what the party committee set as his fundraising goal.

“When you look at the other subcommittee chairmen, I will happily match our record of giving with our colleagues,” one senior Pallone aide said.

Pallone, who expects to spend heavily in his own re-election race, is also continuing to be supportive of colleagues, writing a half-dozen checks to incumbents this week alone.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who is making a run to oust Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.), is also continuing to write checks to candidates. Neal, who had nearly $2.5 million in his campaign coffer as of Oct. 19, will continue to contribute to Democratic candidates through Election Day, according to a Neal spokesman.

“He’s going to continue what he’s been doing all along, I think that’s a reflection of his spending,” the spokesman said.

A senior Democratic aide, meanwhile, said that anyone sitting on much more than $1 million after Election Day could have a hard time competing for leadership or chairmanships.

“Having money in the bank is a liability. Having around $1 million is one thing, but clearly sitting on money for some future Senate race is beyond me,” the aide said.