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Updated: March 30, 9:15 a.m.
Top House Democrats made an end-of-the-quarter plea Tuesday night to get their colleagues to contribute early and often to the party’s 2012 effort to win back the majority.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) and Rep. Allyson Schwartz (Pa.) announced at a Member dinner that they are paying their party dues in full in March and urged their colleagues to pony up as well, according to a Democratic source.
Schwartz, who is the DCCC recruiting chairwoman, is paying $300,000 in dues, while Israel is paying $450,000 this month. Other Members who have already paid their dues in full for the cycle are Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas), who paid $300,000, and Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), who paid $250,000.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) were also present at the dinner and joined the effort to pry money from their colleagues ahead of the first-quarter fundraising deadline, which is Thursday. Party dues are set goals for individual Members’ DCCC contributions for the election cycle.
The plea from top Democrats came one day before the National Republican Congressional Committee will hold its annual fundraising dinner, where it expects to raise $10 million. The Wednesday night dinner at the National Building Museum will be headlined by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). The dinner is chaired by Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.), John Kline (Minn.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.).
This is the first dinner since 2006 that the House GOP is in the majority. An NRCC official said the $10 million haul is bigger than the past two years. The dinner raised $7 million in 2010 and $6 million in 2009, when the event was still a joint venture with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“I’m proud to announce that we raised over $10 million with the NRCC March Dinner to strengthen the new Republican Majority in 2012,” NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) said in a statement. “This outstanding fundraising effort will enable the NRCC to stay on offense against House Democrats who continue to support the failed policies and leadership of Nancy Pelosi.”
An NRCC official said the $10 million haul is bigger than the past two years. The dinner raised $7 million in 2010 and $6 million in 2009, when the event was still a joint venture with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
As of the end of February, the DCCC had $5.9 million in cash on hand and was $17.3 million in debt. The NRCC had $4.9 million on hand and was $9.5 million in arrears.
Direct transfer from Members’ campaign accounts, which are not subject to contribution limits, are considered the most cost-efficient form of fundraising for the DCCC and NRCC. Both are competing for donors this cycle against the Senate campaign committees, national party committees and presidential campaigns, making Member dollars all the more valued.
A recent New York Times profile of Israel offered a glimpse of the chairman’s frustration with colleagues who sit on large war chests instead of giving to the effort to win back the House majority.
The profile’s opening anecdote was Israel grumbling to his finance staff: “We have these members sitting on $3 million, and they’re saying they can’t pay their dues? I have no tolerance for that. What do we do to embarrass them? Can you get me a list of ranking members who are lagging?”