Markey Asks Kerry to Help Ease DCCC Debt

Posted March 1, 2005 at 6:37pm

Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey (D) has urged home-state Sen. John Kerry (D) in recent weeks to donate a portion of the funds left over from his 2004 presidential bid to help dig the House campaign committee out of its staggering debt.

Fellow Bay State Rep. Barney Frank (D) has also reached out to Kerry to discuss a possible donation to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Sources familiar with Kerry’s thinking say the Senator is willing to help Democratic Congressional candidates, but they add that he’s made no promises to the DCCC.

“John Kerry is committed to electing Democrats up and down the ticket [and] across the country,” said Katharine Lister, a spokeswoman for Kerry’s new political action committee, Keeping America’s Promise. “He looks forward to working with the DCCC to take back the House.”

Markey’s chief of staff, David Moulton, would not comment on the nature of any discussions the Congressman has had with Kerry.

“Rep. Markey’s conversations with Sen. Kerry are private,” Moulton said.

Frank did not return a call seeking comment.

Some House Democrats believe that with Kerry continuing to contemplate a 2008 presidential run, a hefty donation to the DCCC would go a long way toward engendering good will among Members.

“There is no doubt if he is looking at running for president, Members of Congress are influential endorsers, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to think it is a good thing for him to do,” said one senior House Democratic aide.

On its face, Kerry and the DCCC seem a financial match made in heaven.

At the end of 2004, the Massachusetts Senator had nearly $10 million left in an account filled with funds raised during his successful run to the Democratic presidential nomination.

At the end of last month, the DCCC found itself nearly $11 million in arrears — the largest debt the House committee has ever incurred.

The committee borrowed heavily to fund its efforts to retake the House last cycle, spending $7 million in defense of five endangered Members in Texas.

But four of the five Texans were defeated, and House Democrats suffered a three-seat setback nationwide.

The DCCC’s predicament contrasts with the continued financial strength of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

After raising $4.6 million in the first month of 2005, the NRCC had approximately $2 million on hand at the end of January. It reported no debt at that time.

Beyond its debt, admittedly a major caveat, the DCCC’s fundraising was sound. The committee brought in $1.6 million in January, closing the month with $1.5 million on hand.

The two parties’ cash-on-hand totals were somewhat similar because the NRCC continued its torrid spending on telemarketing.

In January alone, the committee disbursed $5.8 million, more than one-third of which went to InfoCision, a telemarketing firm based in Ohio.

The NRCC spent heavily on InfoCision in the previous cycle, citing a need to continually replenish its small-dollar donor base.

Although DCCC officials are trying to downplay the committee debt, it looms over their efforts to take back the House in 2006.

After the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, paying back debt is a much more difficult task for the party committees.

The DCCC must use hard, federal dollars to pay back its debt, rather than the easier-to-raise soft dollars that had been used in past cycles.

The committees must also pay interest on any outstanding line of credit, which forces them to spend precious hard dollars on simply maintaining the debt until they can pay it off.

Because of these complicating factors, House strategists are hoping for a cash infusion from Kerry.

The Massachusetts Senator has already shown a willingness to use his excess funds to benefit the party.

In recent months, he’s given both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee $1 million gifts from his primary account. Kerry also donated $250,000 to the recount effort in Washington state that led to the election of a Democratic governor and $50,000 to benefit the two Democratic Congressional candidates running in December runoffs in Louisiana.

Kerry also transferred $4 million from his presidential primary account to his Senate campaign committee in late December.