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Operatives: Abysmal Campaign Fundraising in Third Quarter

Democrats lamented an “aggressive” fundraising campaign for President Barack Obama’s re-election — one that could eventually raise $1 billion — leaves many Democratic House and Senate candidates dialing for dollars. The Democratic National Committee and Obama’s re-election campaign have programs that push donors to give the maximum allowed under Federal Election Commission rules. That’s a limit of $70,800 to party committees and political action committees and $46,200 for candidates this cycle.

“It makes it hard for Congressional candidates who constantly hear, ‘I’m federally maxed out,’” the Democratic fundraiser said.

Meanwhile, national donors are spread thin on the GOP side, too — especially because of the varied field for the Republican nomination.

“Having an active fundraising presidential field, it occupies the attention of the biggest A-list bundles in a given state,” a Republican consultant said. “It’s not that donors are tapped out. What happened is the very best bundlers are distracted.”

What’s more, the competition for fundraising became more cutthroat this cycle with the emergence of super PACs. Some donors opted to write a large, anonymous check instead of doling out smaller funds to individual candidates.

“There’s also a lot more competition from third-party groups that are out there,” Republican consultant Scott Cottington said. “The ground has shifted quite a bit with super PACs and presidential campaigns.”

In House races, some consultants blamed redistricting for slow fundraising. Many states have not finished their Congressional maps, and candidates have a tough time pitching themselves to donors if they don’t know which seat they will seek.

“It makes it very difficult to raise money when you don’t know who’s in your district,” Nevins added. “Because there are new lines, you’re seeing a lot of crowded primary fields. You’re splitting the party’s established pot of money four ways, five ways.”

In previous quarters this cycle, a strong House challenger brought in $200,000 and well-funded Members topped $250,000 during a three-month period. That number varies for challengers depending on the district, whether they have an established fundraising network, when they announced their candidacy and the competitive nature of their races. Individual Member fundraising can also vary greatly because of the district, committee assignments and re-election campaign.

Daren Berringer, a Democratic consultant, said one of his clients is bringing in half of the money through a special fundraising program as he or she did two years ago during this time.

“Not only has the quarter been difficult for fundraising, but even when people are contributing, I’ve noticed that those contributions are not as high as they’ve traditionally been,” Berringer said.

Even K Street money has been harder to come by. The large freshman class began milking the PAC community early this cycle, and now there’s not much money left in some accounts — again, due to the faltering economy.

“I know for a fact, out of my circle, this has been the hardest fundraising quarter that we’ve ever had,” one Republican PAC fundraiser said. “We all kind of looked at each other last Friday and said, ‘Thank God it’s over.’”

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