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House Democrats Redouble Wooing of K Street

A House Democratic project designed to dip into deep K Street wallets entered its second phase of the 2006 cycle Tuesday, as a group of prominent moderate Members enlisted business donors to shell out thousands of dollars to help the party’s top-tier candidates.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), along with Reps. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), John Tanner (Tenn.) and Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), met Tuesday afternoon with roughly 50 business-minded Democratic consultants, lobbyists and corporate officers to get them to commit to writing checks to their most worthy party hopefuls next year. The same group spent the better half of 2005 raising money from the same set of donors for the most vulnerable House Democratic incumbents.

“House Democrats are in a good position to make significant gains in next year’s election, so it’s an important time to work with our friends downtown to remind them we have common goals and that they have a stake in helping to elect Democrats,” Hoyer said.

Sources said that the four moderate Democrats pressed their case to their K Street allies — that the minority party has a real chance of taking back the House in 2006, and that they need business’ help to elect their most viable Democratic challengers.

“The four Members gave an overview of the political climate and how Democrats will be successful” this cycle, said one Democratic aide familiar with the session. “They laid out the importance of supporting Democratic challengers in the new year.”

Sources said the four moderate Members asked the donors to pledge up to $5,000 as an individual and up to $20,000 as a political action committee to the coffers of some 15 to 20 top-tier Democratic hopefuls.

The latest fundraising foray by the Members is the second chapter in a two-year effort to get party-friendly companies and associations on K Street to up their financial commitment to elect Democrats to Congress. K Street has long been a Republican fundraising stronghold, but in recent years Democrats have heightened their attention to Democratic lobbyists in their quest to raise money for the party.

Lobbyists involved in the talks were Steve Elmendorf, a former chief of staff to then-Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) who’s now with the firm Bryan Cave Strategies, and Bruce Andrews, another former Hill aide who now lobbies for the firm Quinn Gillespie & Associates.

Elmendorf said after the meeting that Democrats on K Street appear ready and willing to respond to the call, given the credibility of the candidates, the relationships they already have with Hoyer, Crowley, Tanner and Tauscher, and the party’s ever improving chances in 2006.

“It always helps you, when you are selling a product that people feel good about, that there’s a chance to win here,” Elmendorf said. “If we didn’t have a chance at winning, 50 people wouldn’t have shown up today.”

The Hoyer-led program initially kicked off in late 2004 but was relaunched in earnest this spring, with its first phase focused exclusively on raising money for the 11 most vulnerable House Democratic incumbents. That phase has now concluded to make way for the 2006 phase, which kicked off Tuesday.

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