Woes Keep Piling Up

Posted March 21, 2008 at 5:52pm

A Roll Call analysis of campaign finance records shows that roughly 20 percent of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s cash has been wiped out during the past two weeks, a victim of an accounting scandal, debt and modest fundraising.

According to February fundraising totals out late last week, the NRCC had $5.13 million in cash as of March 1. Since then, the NRCC told the Federal Election Commission that the scandal involving Christopher Ward, an allegedly wayward ex-treasurer, likely caused the committee to misstate its available cash the previous month.

In a March 13 letter to the FEC, the committee restated its cash position, telling the agency that it actually had $5.67 million on hand as of Feb. 1 — about $750,000 less than it first reported.

Fundraising, too, proved lethargic for House Republicans last month, as the committee took in about $4.6 million, roughly an $870,000 uptick from the previous month but about a quarter off the $6.2 million mark in February set by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Still, Republicans say the political tide is turning in their favor.

“The NRCC had another steady month of fundraising in February,” NRCC spokeswoman Julie Shutley said in an e-mail on Friday. “With the Democrat’s historically low approval ratings and with John McCain as our Presidential nominee, our base is becoming more energized and we are confident we will have the resources we need to be competitive in November.”

Although the committee declined to provide specific fundraising totals, a Republican source confirmed that check-writing GOP Members at this year’s March fundraising dinner were up substantially. In 2007, 81 Republican House Members did not contribute to the fundraiser. This year 56 Members declined.

The NRCC during the month also made a $600,000 dent in its outstanding debt, leaving the committee still $1.9 million in the hole.

To narrow the fundraising gap, House Republican leaders continue to look for an edge, making the most of their second-best status among downtown lobbyists and low overall Congressional approval ratings. Some GOP leaders undoubtedly are embracing creative bookkeeping — the legal variety — and crowding their schedules with campaign events for rank-and-file GOP Members and party committee fundraisers.

For example, Minority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) has attended 90 fundraisers for Republicans in targeted races this cycle. And Blunt, who has transferred about $110,000 to the committee from his campaign account, also has headlined 12 NRCC fundraisers this cycle.

And NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) registered a joint fundraising account, Cole Combined Committee, with the FEC late last year that has given the bulk of its proceeds, about $118,000, to his committee. Using a complex network of the combined account and two other fundraising accounts, Cole has channeled at least $315,000 to the NRCC this cycle.

Roll Call first reported in January that the reality of doing more with less has forced Republicans in both chambers to skirt campaign finance laws by stringing together networks of campaign accounts.

One such next-generation GOP political action committee, the PAC Challenge Committee, has raised $180,000 so far this cycle.

With their now-staggering $33 million fundraising advantage, House Democrats, unsurprisingly, were “pleased” with their February fundraising totals.

“In this political environment, we have more opportunity than we can afford,” DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said.

Meanwhile, earlier last week, Senate committees also filed their monthly fundraising totals with the FEC. And Senate Democrats, too, added to their advantage, which is now better than 2-1.

“We’ve won the fundraising battle every month this cycle,” said Matt Miller, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Combine that with message, momentum and an excellent field of Democratic candidates, and we believe we will have a successful year.”

The DSCC raised $4.79 million last month, closing out February with $32.8 million in the bank. Senate Democrats ended the month with $500,000 in debt, according to campaign finance records.

Month-over-month, the DSCC raised about 20 percent more in February than its $3.95 million total the month before.

Senate Republicans hint that there are GOP signs of life in the 2008 money chase, pointing to a more than 10 percent month-over-month increase in February.

“We are seeing an increasingly positive response to our fundraising, and we are very confident that our candidates will have the resources they need to win in November,” said Rebecca Fisher, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The committee raised nearly $3.95 million in February, about $400,000 more than its $3.54 million total in January.

The NRSC finished the month with no debt. It had $15.29 million in total cash.