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Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel has raised $10.4 million so far for his committee for the midterm elections, topping the previous fundraising record for his post at this point in the cycle.
Israel’s haul ranks only second to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has raised $26.7 million for the DCCC so far this cycle, according to a committee dues report sent to members’ offices last week and obtained by CQ Roll Call. Israel also set a new chairman’s fundraising record for an off year, which was previously held by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a DCCC chairman in 2006.
“Steve has been tireless in his efforts to lead Democrats in our fight to hold Republicans accountable for the mess they’ve created by putting their special interest backers ahead of hardworking families,” Pelosi said in a statement about the New York Democrat.
House Democrats must net 17 seats in November to win the majority — a difficult feat for a midterm cycle in which the president is battling low approval ratings. But the DCCC boasts a cash advantage: As of the end of November, the committee had banked $8 million more than the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Several other members of House Democratic leadership have raised high six- and seven-figure sums for the DCCC so far this cycle, according to the dues sheet. That group includes Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, Xavier Becerra of California and Joseph Crowley of New York.
Typically, House campaign aides circulate the dues sheet — an internal tally of which members have transferred money to or raised money for the DCCC and its candidates — for two reasons.
First, the sheet serves as an opportunity for the DCCC to tout the caucus’s top fundraisers as a model for their colleagues to do more for the committee.
Newer members show their ambition to climb the leadership ranks by raising big bucks. For example, Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico has met more than half of his financial goals with the DCCC so far. (Dues goals are different for every member, ranging from $125,000 to $800,000, with numbers increasing for leadership spots.)
One of the committee’s national chairmen, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, has already transferred $200,000 toward his dues and has raised another $363,00 for the committee. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida raised $1.1 million for candidates and vulnerable members.
Secondly, the sheet serves as a public suggestion for non-giving members to pony up. Some members refuse to raise money for or transfer money to the committee on principle; others hoard cash for a tough re-election, a future statewide run or legal fees.
“There are just members of the caucus who don’t give dues, and that’s just the way it is,” said a former House Democratic campaign aide who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “It’s just not the way they interact with the caucus.”
Several House Democrats have not transferred any money for DCCC dues this cycle yet, according to the sheet’s tally, including House Administration Committee ranking member Robert A. Brady of Pennsylvania and House Agriculture ranking member Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota. Both Democrats have raised zero or relatively small sums for the committee as well.
Peterson faces a tough race in 2014, and some Democrats privately speculate he could announce his retirement after the farm bill passes. Still, top House Democratic leaders hosted a massive fundraiser for his re-election campaign in November.
Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus also declined to transfer any money to the DCCC yet this cycle, including Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia, William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, Charles B. Rangel of New York, Bobby L. Rush of Illinois and Frederica S. Wilson of Florida.
There’s been significant tension in previous cycles between the DCCC and the CBC, which includes many members who represent districts with below-average incomes. Last cycle, Israel pledged to revise the points system used to evaluate member giving to better reflect the CBC’s efforts.
A few members in tough races — Reps. John Barrow of Georgia, Timothy H. Bishop of New York, Michael M. Honda of California and John F. Tierney of Massachusetts — transferred zero funds to the DCCC, according to the dues sheet. But members of the committee’s Frontline program for endangered incumbents, such as Barrow and Bishop, rarely catch flak for skipping out on dues.
The sheet showed that several other members have paid none of their dues so far. They are Reps. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Jim Costa of California, John D. Dingell of Michigan, Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts and Albio Sires of New Jersey.
Bishop and Grijalva raised $67,000 and $59,000, respectively, directly for the committee.
The NRCC runs its version of a dues program differently. Committee leaders backload their requests for fundraising and cash transfers, pushing for donations to the NRCC later in the election year.
According to an NRCC aide, the goal is to ensure their members do not post low cash-on-hand totals after the first couple of quarters of a high-stakes election year.