Delinquent Democrats Declining

Posted July 25, 2005 at 6:47pm

House Democratic leaders have narrowed their list of dues deadbeats to about 40 Members while collecting $6 million so far this cycle from within their Caucus as they continue to press their own to help pad the party coffers heading into 2006.

The latest Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dues tally, which registers Member giving through June 30, was sent out to the Caucus late last week. With the spreadsheet comes a letter from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) reminding Members of their goals and contributions to date.

So far, two-thirds of the 202 Democrats have given at least some money to the DCCC, and two — Reps. Steve Israel (N.Y.) and Nita Lowey (N.Y.) — have paid off their dues entirely. Israel is obligated to pay $150,000 this cycle, while Lowey owes $250,000. Ten Democrats — those in the “Frontline” program for threatened incumbents — are excused from paying any party dues.

“Dues reports are internal DCCC documents that we typically do not comment on,” said Sarah Feinberg, spokeswoman for the DCCC. “That said, it is clear that the DCCC has completed yet another recordbreaking fundraising quarter, and that is due in no small part to the enthusiastic support of the Caucus.”

The latest numbers show a new round of leadership pressure to get Members to give early is beginning to work. Three months ago, at the end of the first financial reporting cycle some 103 Members — or about half the Caucus — had failed to pay any of their dues. Since that time, Pelosi, Emanuel and other leaders issued an ultimatum to Members and threatened to pull party services such as telephones, office space and computers from anyone who didn’t pay up.

Among leaders, Pelosi is setting the example for her Caucus by contributing the most in dues so far this cycle. Her total of $265,000 was followed by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), who has written $200,000 in checks, and DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel with $200,000.

Pelosi, Hoyer and the No. 3 House Democrat, Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) each owe $600,000 this cycle, while other top leaders are charged $400,000. Menendez, who is eyeing the New Jersey Senate and has $2.5 million in the bank, has paid just $15,000 of his obligation so far.

Other leaders are starting to make a dent in their own targets. Caucus Vice Chairman Jim Clyburn (S.C.) and Steering Committee co-chairman George Miller (Calif.) have paid $100,000 apiece, or a fourth of their dues. Rep. John Spratt (S.C.), assistant to the Minority Leader, has given $60,000, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), another Steering Committee co-chairman, has given $25,000.

Beyond the leadership, several top Members are holding their wallets close. Chief deputy whips Reps. Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Ron Kind (Wis.) have yet to pay any of their $250,000 dues. The top Chief Deputy Whip, Rep. John Lewis (Ga.), has paid $100,000 of his tally, followed by chief deputies Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) with $70,000 and Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) with $65,000. The latter two are vying to be the next Caucus vice chairman.

Several other high-ranking Members have also made strong showings in the first six months of the cycle including Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) with $65,000, Hilda Solis (Calif.) with $66,500, Peter Visclosky (Ind.) with $75,000, and Henry Waxman (Calif.) with $75,000.

A number of exclusive committee ranking Members have yet to pony up their $250,000 ask including Reps. Rick Boucher (Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), who is running for the Senate, Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), Jim McDermott (Wash.), John Olver (Mass.), Pete Stark (Calif.) and Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent and Senate aspirant who caucuses with the Democrats.

As for ranking members on other committees, just one of those 18 leading Democrats — Rep. Lane Evans (Ill.) — has yet to pay any of his $200,000 dues. Exclusive committee ranking members owe $300,000 this cycle, while other ranking Members owe $200,000.

Standouts among the non-dues paying Members are those with Senate or gubernatorial ambitions, including Sanders and Cardin, as well as gubernatorial candidates Reps. Jim Davis (Fla.) and Ted Strickland (Ohio), and Senate hopefuls Reps. Harold Ford Jr. (Tenn.), Robert Andrews (N.J.) and Bill Pascrell (N.J.).

Andrews and Pascrell join fellow New Jersey lawmakers Menendez and Rep. Frank Pallone, who hope to win a prospective appointment to replace Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine. Corzine is running for governor, and if he prevails, can name his own successor early next year.

Member dues, which range from $100,000 to $600,000, are part of the DCCC’s three-pronged approach to party fundraising. The party also relies on big Democratic donors and direct mail to round out their efforts.

In his latest letter, Emanuel tells Members that so far that the party has raised $24 million, $10 million more than at the same point in 2003. The DCCC chairman also noted that the party has locked in 33 candidates to run for open or Republican held seats, and plans to increase that number to its goal of 45 targeted candidates by the end of the year.