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Last-Minute Frenzy for Campaign Cash

House Republicans and Democrats are making a mad dash for cash, scheduling hundreds of fundraisers during the next four days before they leave town for the July Fourth recess.

Republicans in particular are feeling the pressure to produce big numbers as they try to hold on to their newfound status in the majority and to ward off any potential challengers.

With so many freshmen up for re-election and changes to the electoral map thanks to redistricting, Republicans aren’t alone in trying to build big campaign war chests in advance of the June 30 filing deadline for second-quarter campaign finance reports.

But Republican fundraiser Monica Notzon said there are more opportunities for GOP lawmakers to raise money as they begin to settle into their elected leadership positions and committee chairmanships.

“Being back in the majority, it’s a frenzied pace. We want to make sure we stay there,” Bellwether Consulting Group’s Notzon said.

GOP fundraisers say they expect to increase their haul for incumbents this cycle by as much as 40 percent.

In order to hit that mark, House Republicans are holding more than 100 fundraisers this week, according to a recent National Republican Congressional Committee fundraising list obtained by Roll Call. More than half of those are for freshman Republicans hoping to pay off campaign debt and to begin stockpiling war chests for the 2012 cycle.

The fundraising solicitations come in all varieties, from early-morning breakfasts to coffee klatches to luncheons and dinners. House Republicans are also hosting a plethora of themed fundraisers, including Nebraska Rep. Adrian Smith’s backyard barbecue, birthday bashes for Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and Virginia Foxx (N.C.), and a mojito night with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.).

GOP lawmakers are also coming together for bigger events, hoping to add to multiple campaign coffers in one night. Nine Republicans, including Reps. Tom Latham (Iowa), Patrick Meehan (Pa.), Lou Barletta (Pa.) Charles Bass (N.H.), Francisco “Quico” Canseco (Texas) and Joe Heck (Nev.), are being honored Wednesday at a “Patriot Day” event at the Capitol Hill Club. Organizers are looking to raise big bucks with political action committee hosts expected to give or raise $50,000 and PAC sponsors to give or raise $25,000.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to contribute $140,000 to Members who are participating in the Patriot Day event. “Speaker Boehner is committed to doing everything possible in support of Patriot Members who are building winning campaigns to strengthen the Republican House majority and advance our conservative, pro-jobs agenda in Democrat-run Washington,” spokesman Cory Fritz said.

One area of particular concern for the Republican Party is the 87 freshmen, many of whom ran as anti-establishment candidates.

GOP lobbyists said it’s hard to put a priority on giving to freshmen in safe districts who are also on the bottom of the totem pole on committees, particularly when there are more senior Members with whom they already have relationships.

But that’s not stopping the freshmen from trying to crush the second quarter.

“There is a lot of pressure on the House freshmen to have early successful numbers and to potentially ward off any challengers,” said Notzon, who represents a handful of Republican freshmen.

There is even greater pressure to post higher fundraising numbers this quarter because several events were canceled after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in January.

The NRCC list has freshmen holding 53 fundraisers this week. Several of those will have the added star power of elected leaders and chairmen as “special guests” as a way to ensure better attendance and more campaign checks. For instance, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) is attending fundraisers for a few freshmen, including Reps. Steve Southerland (Fla.) and Cory Gardner (Colo.). Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) is attending a fundraiser for fellow Badger State Republican Rep. Sean Duffy, and Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (Ala.) is attending a financial industry lunch with freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.).

Despite the crush of GOP fundraisers, Democrats are trying to hold their ground this quarter as well.

“Things have gotten harder, there is no question about it,” Democratic fundraiser Michael Fraioli said. Still, Fraioli of Fraioli & Associates said things are looking up for Democrats.

“Democrats do think they have a better shot at winning back the House than they did before April,” Fraioli said. “Things are improving with every week that goes by.”

Still, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried to moderate expectations Thursday at a “Pelosi for Congress” fundraiser. The California Democrat told about 50 lobbyists at the W Hotel that it was amazing they bested Republicans in the first quarter, but “we’re not going to win every quarter,” according to one Democratic lobbyist who attended.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. House Democrats are holding almost 100 fundraisers of their own this week.

Reps. Mike Ross (Ark.), David Scott (Ga.), John Olver (Mass.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.) are among the Members lining up for campaign contributions Wednesday. They are even lending a hand to Giffords, who is still recovering from being shot. The Blue Dog PAC is hosting a breakfast reception today, asking hosts to cough up $5,000 at the PAC level, $2,500 to be a PAC sponsor, $1,000 to be a PAC guest and $500 for individuals.

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