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Republican National Committee officials say they have made steady progress toward rebuilding their fundraising operation and paying off debt, even as President Barack Obama’s re-election machine swamped the RNC in the second-quarter money race.
The RNC raised $6.7 million in June, capping off a $19 million second quarter.
The committee has raised $36.6 million this year and ended June with $7.3 million in cash on hand. The RNC will report remaining debt from 2010 of $17.5 million, after beginning January with nearly $25 million.
While the figures are all behind where the RNC was at this point in the 2010 cycle, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus believes the committee is well on track to close 2011 with his previously stated goal of at least $10 million in the bank. Priebus has burned money at a lower rate than his predecessor, who inherited an organization that was debt-free and flush with cash.
Priebus told Roll Call in March that he wants to be debt-free by December.
“We have made considerable progress over the last six months turning this committee around and restoring credibility with our donors. As a testament to our hard work, major donors are coming back to the RNC in droves,” Priebus said. “This has improved our net revenue each month and allowed us to build up our cash on hand while paying down the debt.”
Major donors are key to Priebus’ fundraising strategy, and the RNC has raised more from this group this year than the committee did in 2009 and 2010 combined, according to RNC officials.
But the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised a combined $86 million in the second quarter alone — and the DNC brought in more than $38 million.
During a conference call last week, Obama campaign officials discussed at length several aspects of the second-quarter fundraising achievements of both the president’s re-election campaign and the DNC. The $86 million raised by the two political committees included 680,000 donations to the Obama campaign from a total of 552,000 donors, more than 260,000 of whom contributed for the first time.
Including donations to the DNC, the average second-quarter donation to the two committees totaled $88. The Obama campaign, which plans to spend the primary period of the 2012 race investing in infrastructure and preparing for November 2012, declined to reveal its fundraising goal for the third quarter, other than to note that it is typically a difficult period because July and August are usually slow for fundraising.
“We will have to redouble our efforts in the weeks ahead,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said.
The DNC did not respond to a request for comment.
The RNC during the second quarter saw a consistent uptick in fundraising, bringing in $6.1 million in April, $6.2 million in May and $6.7 million in June. The RNC classifies major donors as those contributing $10,000 or more at one time. According to that metric, $1.7 million of the committee’s June take came from this group, an increase from the $115,000 the RNC raised from major donors in June 2009.
Priebus has dedicated $6.7 million raised this year to debt, including $1 million in June, although the goal for 2011 is no longer to necessarily pay off the committee’s debt completely as much as it is to bank as much cash as possible to help the eventual presidential nominee. Of the remaining $17.5 million in debt, only $3 million is owed to outside vendors. Meanwhile, Priebus has reduced the RNC’s payroll and overhead by 36 percent.
According to at least one Washington, D.C.-based Republican operative with ties to the capital’s professional GOP community and the grass roots, Priebus is getting high marks for his performance running the RNC thus far, in part because of the deteriorated state of the committee’s finances and political infrastructure when he succeeded Michael Steele as chairman in January.
At least since the 1994 cycle, when now-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was RNC chairman, the committee was considered the gold standard of the GOP’s national party committees. That changed under Steele, whose overall fundraising numbers might not have been far off, considering the state of the Republican Party in late 2008, in the aftermath of Obama’s victory.
Priebus has been working to restore the RNC’s image — particularly in the eyes of major donors.
“I think they are doing well and others think so as well. The problem is there is no really standout presidential candidate and also we are a long way from having a nominee to coordinate money with, unlike the president, so money is slower than it could be,” the Republican operative said. “People inside the Beltway really just want the RNC to get like it has been in the past. If the chair demonstrates that is happening, he will be deemed successful.”