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Obama Event to Raise Just $3M for Hill Democrats

The aide also said their share of the $14.45 million does not represent money brought in from sales of the roughly 600 tickets the NRSC distributed for the 2,000-person dinner. That’s because the NRSC doesn’t simply sell tickets to donors, but rather sells “membership programs” that can range from $1,000 to more than $30,000.

“The purpose of the dinners is to drive sales of memberships to various programs, and as members of programs, you get various benefits including tickets to these dinners,” the aide said.

Republicans also claimed that Democrats were only trying to lower expectations ahead of the release of the dinner’s fundraising total.

“The reality is that the Democrats have the most successful fundraiser in history as their party leader and Democratic majorities in both chambers who are mining K Street for campaign dollars while threatening lobbyists who meet with Republicans,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said. “So this dollar amount sounds less about the real world we’re all living in and more about claiming to meet a faux pledge that they will not accept lobbyist money on Obama’s watch.”

Despite the fact that some Democrats doubt the validity of the Republican number, it didn’t stop them from using the $14.45 million figure to motivate supporters in their own fundraising solicitation.

“Don’t believe what you’ve heard about a GOP in disarray,” DSCC Executive Director J.B. Poersch said in an e-mail solicitation on Tuesday. “They’re mad, they’re organized, and they’re determined to return to what they see as their rightful place: ruling the halls of Congress. How do I know? $14.4 million. That’s how much Newt Gingrich raised during a fundraising dinner last week for Republican House and Senate committees.”

Officials at the Democratic committees declined to discuss the fundraising total for the Thursday night event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Meanwhile, Democratic lobbyist Larry O’Brien said he doubts that extending the White House’s ban on lobbyists — and their checks — to the committees is really at the heart of why fundraising for the dinner is seemingly low.

O’Brien said he believes lobbyists are generally inclined to give directly to Members, not to the party committees.

“The fact of the matter is very few K Street lobbying types are significant donors to either the DSCC or the DCCC,” O’Brien said. “Ironically ... I don’t think there’s a huge amount of harm done because I don’t think there was a tremendous revenue stream there anyway.”

But with a popular first-term president in the White House, another Democratic lobbyist speculated that the ban likely cut the dinner’s fundraising in half.

“Lobbyists are like anyone else,” the lobbyist said. “They’re enthusiastic about the president, and there’d be a much bigger turnout” if the ban were not in place.

Still, even with downtowners shut out, the Democratic lobbyist said the majority party should not have any problems making up any shortfall as 2009 wears on.

It just won’t be “in one fell swoop,” like in years past.

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