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Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill are privately bristling over Howard Dean’s management of the Democratic National Committee and have made those sentiments clear after new fundraising numbers showed he has spent nearly all the committee’s cash and has little left to support their efforts to gain seats this cycle.
Several well-informed Democratic sources said Congressional leaders were furious last week when they learned the DNC has just $5.5 million in the bank, compared to the Republican National Committee’s $34 million.
Sources also indicated that Senate and House Minority Leaders Harry Reid (Nev.) and Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), along with the Senate and House campaign committee chairmen Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), have made their concerns — directly or indirectly — known to Dean.
“People are bringing him to Jesus,” said a Democratic source familiar with DNC operations. “It’s being expressed to him. He knows it.”
But this source added that “Dean is very powerful within the base of the party and from the beginning hasn’t [cared] about what Pelosi and Reid think. He doesn’t need them, he’s his own power center.”
The ire comes just a year into Dean’s tenure at the DNC, and at a time when the former Vermont governor has been touting his long-term strategy to build up the Democratic Party from its roots over the next several years. Dean has used much of the DNC’s money to hire party organizers in all 50 states, which the committee argues is a new and necessary move to put the party on a path to the majority.
Dean insists that the DNC will be able to help the party win back seats in both chambers. And DNC officials say so far this cycle, the committee has honored every request for help from party leaders.
Josh Earnest, DNC spokesman, said the committee decided early on that it would spend much of its cash upfront to build an infrastructure that would help elect Democrats in 2006 and beyond.
Earnest brushed aside any talk that the national committee would leave Senate and House candidates hanging.
“We’re completely confident that we’re going to have ample resources to support our Democratic candidates across the country,” said Earnest, adding that the DNC brought in a record amount of off-year money in 2005.
But the Democratic leadership sources said the leaders aren’t upset with Dean’s overall fundraising performance — the DNC collected just more than $51 million last year — but how he is spending it.
“A lot of people are scratching their heads as to what’s going on,” said one senior Democratic aide.
Another Democratic source familiar with the party fundraising apparatus said there is “obvious displeasure” among the leaders.
“The biggest problem is that Dean is leaving the party in a vulnerable position by having so much less money than the RNC,” this source said. “The other Democratic committees are forced to fight both their respective committees as well as the RNC, which is the new 800-pound gorilla.”
So far, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are staying financially competitive with their GOP counterparts. Both Emanuel and Schumer are winning high marks for their fundraising prowess at their respective committees this cycle.