House Democratic leaders are mounting a major push this week to wrest outstanding party dues payments from their rank and file, racing to fill their coffers before the close of the second quarter.
Leaders jump-started the effort Tuesday morning in a conference room at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where they picked up the phone to call their deadbeat Members. The move was the first of its kind this cycle and comes in the wake of House Republicans kicking off their Member fundraising drive.
The top Democrats pitch: Protect your investment. That is, Democrats hustled to win the majority, and lawmakers shouldnt let it slip away now by slacking on their obligations to the DCCC.
Weve worked very hard to get where we are today, and weve accomplished a great deal, said Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), a vice chairman of the DCCC. But theres more the Obama administration and we want to get done, and Members need to step up and be supportive of the Caucus and our political efforts through the DCCC.
The majority got a jolt last week when House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) pledged $1 million to the National Republican Congressional Committees Battleground fundraising effort.
That promise came as GOP brass told their colleagues in a closed-door huddle that the only thing standing between them and control of the chamber is money. And Tuesday morning, six Republicans followed Boehners lead by promising to fork over a total of about $640,000 to the program.
The DCCC maintains a lead of more than $16 million over its Republican counterpart in cash on hand, but the NRCC in May outraised the DCCC for the second month in a row another fact fraying nerves among Democratic political captains.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) used the Boehner pledge to pen a fundraising solicitation through the DCCC on Tuesday, telling donors: The world is watching our next move. The media will use our grassroots totals to measure our response to Leader Boehner and also as a referendum on President [Barack] Obamas leadership.
Pelosi made a fresh internal appeal to her colleagues during their Tuesday morning Caucus meeting. Then Pelosi, DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and a number of committee chairmen Barney Frank (Mass.) of Financial Services, George Miller (Calif.) of Education and Labor, Ed Markey (Mass.) of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, and Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) of ethics headed over to the DCCC headquarters to work the phones from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Crowley and Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (Mich.) made calls separately on Tuesday.
Its going well, Van Hollen said Tuesday. People are responding. ... The message is everybodys got to get on board. We have to be a team here, and thats it. Were all in this together.
One challenge for Democrats is that many of their rank and file arent yet buying the all-for-one appeal. Facing stiff political headwinds this cycle, a number of Members eyeing potentially tough re-election fights for the first time in years are holding on to their reserves. Others on the left flank are still fuming from the compromises that leaders struck with moderates to pass a historically ambitious agenda.