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Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) wrested just shy of $1.5 million from his Senate colleagues last month, with one-third of the whopping sum coming from Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.).
Schumer, the notoriously aggressive head of the party fundraising arm, convinced 16 of his fellow Democrats to write checks to the DSCC before the end of the second-quarter fundraising period on June 30. The amounts, most of which came in during the final week of June, varied from a low of $5,000 to Baucus high of $500,000.
Beyond Baucus, the other significant contributors were Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), who shelled out $250,000 apiece, and from Sens. Tom Carper (Del.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), who each gave the DSCC $100,000. All of those Senators contributions came from their re-election accounts, which unlike personal or political action committee money are not subject to campaign finance limits.
We could not be successful without the caucus fully behind us in every way, Schumer said in an interview Monday. Weve had many people give and we expect to see many, many more.
Schumer said he hasnt had to pressure his colleagues to open up their wallets, but he does continue to make the case for what he views as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pick up seats in traditionally conservative states such as Alaska and Mississippi. Those states have brought credible Democratic challengers to GOP incumbents, but they also have proved to be difficult terrain for raising money locally, Schumer argued.
I show [my colleagues] the need and show why we need the money and how I need help to gain new seats, Schumer explained. You know with my colleagues, we really are a team. It doesnt take that much. They do it nicely and willingly.
You have to make the argument, he added. But if its a logical and persuasive argument, they are generous.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), who gave $50,000 to the DSCC last month, said Schumers request wasnt difficult to heed, saying: He asked me if I would, and I did.
Ive spent half [my career] doing time in the minority and half of it doing time in the majority, added Leahy, who is in his sixth term and is up for re-election in 2010. Ive thought about it, and I like the majority better.
Democrats are feeling increasingly confident about their chances to pick up seats this November, particularly since just one of their 12 incumbents, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), is viewed as endangered. By comparison, at least half a dozen Republican incumbents are considered imperiled, and the minority party is at risk of losing another three open seats to the Democrats.
Of the Democratic Senators in cycle in 2008, five of them gave to the DSCC last month, including Landrieu, who gave $10,000, and Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa), who gave $5,000. Baucus, Pryor and Rockefeller also are up for another term this fall, but along with Harkin, they face relatively smooth rides to re-election.