Cole Seeks Boost for House GOP Frosh

Posted February 23, 2004 at 6:18pm

Seeking to provide a fundraising boost for his fellow House freshmen, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) will host an event for five of his colleagues on March 3.

Modeled on the Retain Our Majority Program (ROMP) developed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Cole is calling his fundraiser the Freshman Retaining Our Majority Program (FROMP).

“We wanted five of our most vulnerable Members to show up and, without having to lift a finger, raise $20,000 or $25,000,” said Cole. “They didn’t have to raise it and didn’t have to tap into their own donor base.”

Cole said they will pass the initial overall goal of $100,000 raised for Reps. Bob Beauprez (Colo.), Max Burns (Ga.), Randy Neugebauer (Texas), Rick Renzi (Ariz.) and Mike Rogers (Ala.) but would not speculate on a final total. He added that 12 Members are already committed to the Capitol Hill Club fundraiser but expects more to sign up this week.

All of the FROMP members with the exception of Neugebauer are on the 10-member ROMP list that also includes Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite (Fla.), Chris Chocola (Ind.), Jim Gerlach (Pa.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Steve Pearce (N.M.) and Jon Porter (Nev.).

Thanks to the Republican-led redistricting process in Texas that was finalized late last year, Neugebauer will face off against Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D) in November.

Democrats have developed their own program to aid vulnerable Members.

Through Frontline Democrats, the Democratic Caucus had raised better than $1 million for the 19 incumbents in the group at the end of 2001. More than $800,000 of that total came in the form of Member donations.

Republicans currently hold a 228-to-205 advantage over their Democratic counterparts, and Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) caucuses with the minority. A special election will be held June 1 to replace Rep. Bill Janklow (R-S.D.), who resigned following his conviction on second-degree manslaughter charges.

While Democrats still appear to be a long shot to retake the majority in November, the Caucus received a boost last week with Rep.-elect Ben Chandler’s (D) victory in the Kentucky 6th district special election.

“We all have a stake in their success,” said Cole about the FROMP list. “If the [National Republican Congressional Committee] is not successful, we are all minority Members.”

The foundation for Cole’s effort was laid in 1999 when DeLay founded ROMP to aid Republican incumbents following the Senate impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton.

It centers on three fundraisers hosted by top GOP leaders, the proceeds of which go directly to the campaign accounts of targeted Members. It was replicated in the 2002 cycle.

The target giving audience for these events are fellow Members, lobbyists and political action committees.

DeLay raised $750,000 for ROMP members last March; Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) held a June 19 event that brought in $1.1 million.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) has yet to hold his ROMP event for the 2004 cycle.

“This is a shamelessly stolen idea from Tom DeLay,” admitted Cole. “We were kicking around different ideas about how we could help one another, and that was a great model.”

Cole added that at 33 Members, the freshman class is the second largest since the 1994 election that saw Republicans pick up 52 seats and take back control, giving him a healthy fundraising base for this event.

The increased Member involvement is considered vital to the financial futures of both parties’ campaign committees in the wake of campaign finance reform legislation passed in the 107th Congress.

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act prohibits national parties from raising and spending soft, nonfederal dollars, putting a premium on candidates’ ability to fund their own contests through hard dollars, which can only be accepted in amounts maxing out at $2,000.

Cole perhaps better understands that challenge than many of his fellow freshmen because of his background as a longtime campaign consultant and Republican National Committee chief of staff during the 2000 cycle.

“This is an example of Mr. Cole stepping up to the plate to help his fellow Members,” said NRCC Communications Director Carl Forti.

Elected in 2002 to replace Rep. J.C. Watts (R) in the Norman-based 4th district, Cole is seen as a rising star in the party.

His fronting of the FROMP event will do little to quell rumors about a future role as chairman of the NRCC, although Cole maintains he is not interested in the post.

Cole said he has “no aspirations” to head that committee, adding: “I am real happy with the NRCC chairman we have.”