Leaders Fill PAC Coffers

Posted October 24, 2003 at 6:30pm

Two Democratic fundraising organizations formed earlier this year to collect hard- and soft-money donations for House and Senate campaigns will hold their first joint fundraiser of the cycle Nov. 5.

The event, which will benefit the Democratic Senate Majority Fund and the New House PAC, will feature at least 60 Members, including a majority of the leadership in both the House and Senate. It will be held at the Phoenix Park Hotel.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.), Minority Whip Harry Reid (Nev.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) all will attend.

Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), John Breaux (La.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.) will also serve as chairmen. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), the only Member to donate to both committees in the first six months of the year, is not listed on the invite.

Among House leadership, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head Robert Matsui (Calif.) will be chairmen, as will South Carolina Reps. James Clyburn and John Spratt.

The other 45 House Members will be event hosts.

Chairmen are required to make a $5,000 donation, hosts $2,500 and guests $1,500.

The two groups have opened a joint fundraising committee for the event —DSMF/NHP 2003 — that will help pay the overhead costs and divvy up the final take.

“We are pleased to have such strong Member support for our hard-money efforts,” said Howard Wolfson, who along with former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Finance Director Jonathan Mantz founded the New House PAC. Marc Farinella, a former campaign manager for former Sen. Jean Carnahan (Mo.), is the executive director of the DSMF.

Neither Wolfson nor Farinella would provide an estimate of the total they hoped to raise, but quick calculations based on their current Member support show that they have commitments of $187,500.

Each group has both a hard-money political action committee and a 527 apparatus aimed at collecting unlimited soft-money contributions that the national party committees are banned from accepting under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The Supreme Court is mulling an appeal to the law.

The joint fundraiser is the first major foray for either group since this spring. Each held an April event with Members and the DSMF also held a May gathering, but neither did significant fundraising over the summer and early fall.

“Summer is over and people are starting to think about this stuff a little more,” said Farinella, who admitted that his group remains in something of a slow period as they await a ruling from the court.

The DSMF brought in $105,000 in the first six months of the year for its hard-dollar arm. Eight Democratic Senators gave $35,000 to the DSMF between January and June; Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Tom Carper (Del.), Clinton, Corzine and Dick Durbin (Ill.) pitched in $5,000 apiece; and Daschle and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) each gave $2,500. Its 527 raised $35,000 from Jan. 1 to June 30.

The New House PAC focused solely on raising hard dollars, raking in $101,000. Pelosi gave $5,000 to the committee from her personal campaign account and her leadership PAC.

The November fundraiser signals that Democrats continue to be more aggressive than Republicans in their efforts to collect soft money that had previously been directed to the parties.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) former Chief of Staff Susan Hirschmann and former Rep. Bill Paxon (N.Y.) formed the Leadership Forum in late 2002 but through the first six months of 2003 had not raised any money.

Hirschmann has said the forum is now actively fundraising, and their efforts will be reflected in the 527’s year-end report. In late 2002, the forum returned a $1 million soft-money donation from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Senate Republican operatives formed the National Committee for a Responsible Senate in 2002, but there has been no activity on its behalf this year. Some familiar with the NCRS believe it will never get off the ground.