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House Democrats Ante Up for Midterms

House Democrats' latest dues sheet identifies party's team players (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
House Democrats' latest dues sheet identifies party's team players (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats’ pressure on caucus members to pay dues early to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying off, according to the party’s most recent fundraising document.  

The DCCC has raised more than its Republican counterpart so far this cycle, and that’s partly a result of its successful member dues program and the money members have raised on behalf of the committee.  

A House Democratic source highlighted to CQ Roll Call that 90 percent of the caucus has paid its dues in some form and that 21 members have paid in full, including five freshmen. Beyond that, on the latest dues sheet — which tracks members’ dues payments and fundraising through May, and is distributed to members’ offices — most of Democratic leadership had met its goals for the cycle in both categories.  

In effect, the monthly dues sheet is a report card for how much of a team player each House Democrat is. Members’ goals for dues and DCCC fundraising vary based on committee assignments, leadership ranking, their roles within the DCCC and seniority.  

The dues sheet’s primary utility is to shame members who aren’t meeting expectations. That includes a side-by-side comparison of their campaigns’ cash-on-hand totals with how much they’ve contributed.  

Endangered incumbents are listed on the sheet, but they’re highlighted in italics and largely excused from hitting their goals.  

Members earn “points” each month by contributing financially or organizationally to help the party toward its goal of picking up the 17 seats needed to take back control of the House — something unlikely to happen this cycle. While many staffers complain the points system is confusing, members hold points leaders in high regard, and those eyeing leadership or committee ranking positions closely track these tallies.  

Leadership members have the highest goals and, as a result, far outrank the rest of the caucus in points. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was responsible for more than a third of the DCCC’s total cycle-to-date haul. Additionally, she directly contributed or raised $2.2 million for endangered members and top Democratic challengers.  

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland is just shy of his $2.5 million DCCC fundraising goal, but he scored well , Hill sources said, because of his frequent recess travel and his member services operation. Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, Democratic Conference Chairman Xavier Becerra of California and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel of New York all exceeded their goals so far this cycle, as did Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a former DCCC chairman.  

Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York had not met his goals in May, but a House Democratic source confirmed that he has since made the mark.  

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida continues to pay her dues and has not met her DCCC fundraising goal yet. But her points ranking is high, thanks largely to the $1.8 million she donated to or raised directly for House campaigns. Wasserman Schultz also has political financial obligations outside of the DCCC as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.  

Candidates to eventually replace Israel as DCCC chairman are closing in on their dues goals. Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, currently the DCCC’s national chairman for candidate services, has raised $770,000 for the DCCC — exceeding his goal. DCCC Finance Chairman Jim Himes of Connecticut has raised nearly half of his $3 million fundraising goal for the DCCC, which is the highest goal of any member outside of Pelosi, Israel and Crowley.  

Another likely contender for the job, Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, met a fraction of her financial goals as of May. But she actually surpassed Himes and Polis in points, likely due to her organizational support to candidates as DCCC recruitment chairwoman.  

On the GOP side, instead of a mass-emailed list, the National Republican Congressional Committee has a leaderboard detailing members’ party fundraising inside of its offices, according to multiple Capitol Hill GOP operatives.  

At their weekly political conference meeting on Tuesday, Republican members pledged to raise money in addition to their required dues. GOP sources said the meeting went down in an auction-style format, led by Missouri Rep. Billy Long.  

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California — who will take over as majority leader on Aug. 1 — each promised an additional $1.5 million. Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin promised an additional $1 million.  

Two other Democratic fundraising standouts are Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California, who are locked in a fierce battle to be the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  

The obligations are much lower for members in their first term, but senior House Democrats are closely watching freshman numbers as they look to groom the next generation. The five freshmen who’ve already paid their dues are Reps. Joaquin Castro of Texas, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Jared Huffman of California, Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts and Derek Kilmer of Washington.  

Kennedy, in particular, raises eyebrows for strong fundraising. He is frequently mentioned as a future DCCC chairman, but not in the forthcoming cycle.