Buoyed DCCC Raises Money Goal

Posted June 21, 2004 at 6:41pm

House Democrats have boosted their fundraising goal by nearly $20 million for this cycle, believing that the political landscape has shifted enough for them to take back the House in November.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee increased its fundraising goal for the two-year period from $60 million to $77 million. The move follows two special election victories, strong candidate recruitment, new generic polling that shows growing support for Democrats nationally, and a surge of optimism within the party about the likelihood of winning the House.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is so confident of gains that she even pressed her fellow leaders and ranking committee members privately last week to begin thinking about what initiatives they would like to pursue in the majority.

But to get there, Pelosi and DCCC Chairman Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) told the Caucus, they must help meet the new fundraising target of $77 million. Matsui told Members that 186 of them — all non-threatened lawmakers — are sitting on $87 million in their campaign accounts and can afford to give more to the party.

The remaining 19 Members are in the DCCC’s “Frontline” program for vulnerable members, meaning that they are excused from DCCC dues this cycle.

“There’s no question the landscape has improved for us, and it’s because to a large extent the type of candidates we’re getting,” Matsui said in an interview. “In the last three or four months we’ve picked up a wealth of first-tier candidates.”

As of May 31, the DCCC had taken in $47 million.

The DCCC’s original target of $60 million was set at the beginning of the cycle — long before committee officials could know about such variables as open seats and special elections.

Matsui said the party now has 38 first-tier candidates either vying for open seats or challenging Republican incumbents. He added that he expects the $77 million target to hold.

“We assessed what it will actually take [to win these seats],” he said. “The tragedy would be to find ourselves with three or four or five first-tier candidates in competitive districts and we just don’t have the resources to finance them.”

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said the DCCC can meet the new target as long as Members and key Democratic donors step up to the task. The DCCC has focused fundraising this cycle on Member giving, direct mail, individual donors and political action committees.

“If we are going to be in play, it’s all going to be determined by the amount of money we can raise,” Crowley said.

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Democrats can revise their targets all they want — but they still won’t improve their chances this cycle. Through May 31, the NRCC raised $107 million.

“Sure, Democrats can try to manufacture all the momentum they want,” he said. “They already increased Member fundraising, there’s only so many times they can go back to that well. It’s going to dry up. They have to branch out and raise money from small donors and they haven’t even come close to being as successful as we have.”

But Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who heads the DCCC’s business outreach efforts, sees the picture much more optimistically, citing the two Republican seats recently won by Democrats in special elections and an energized base of Members.

“There will not be a seat in the nation that we lose because we didn’t do enough to raise money,” Thompson said. “We’ll be there.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) agreed that Members now believe they can win back the majority this cycle, and thus have become more willing to give to the DCCC. She also pointed to the overall political atmosphere, generic polling numbers and strong candidates recently recruited by the party.

“It’s not just overblown rhetoric that we can win the House,” said Schakowsky. “We will achieve those [fundraising] goals.”