State Parties, Boehner Align

Posted June 9, 2008 at 6:43pm

In his continuing effort to compensate for the National Republican Congressional Committee’s weak cash position, House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) has organized a joint fundraising committee of eight state Republican parties for the purpose of raising money for targeted House races.

Boehner, looking to protect House Republicans from suffering steep losses in November, has undertaken this effort in conjunction with NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.). He is simultaneously spearheading a new joint fundraising committee anchored by the NRCC and the Republican National Committee. Both committees are set to launch in the coming days.

Fundraising for the committee of eight state parties will be led by Boehner, with the proceeds set to fund grass-roots and get-out-the-vote activities for targeted House races in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington state. The committee is a joint venture among the states and will not be legally linked to either the NRCC or the RNC.

“This is a great program that Chairman Cole and Leader Boehner have collaborated on that provides candidates with a useful tool to help turn out voters this November,” NRCC spokeswoman Karen Hanretty said Monday.

The exact legal status of this state-party fundraising committee and the contribution limits it will have to adhere to were still being finalized early this week, according to a Republican source familiar with the new entity.

With only $6.7 million on hand as of April 30 compared with a whopping $45.3 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the NRCC’s ability to defend nearly 30 Republican open seats and play in targeted Democratic-held districts will likely be limited come fall.

And that’s just from the financial perspective, before political atmospherics and the presidential election are factored into the equation — both of which appear to favor the Democratic Party at present.

The NRCC’s cash position — weak for most of this cycle as Cole worked to pay off a nearly $20 million debt from 2006 while investing a significant amount of undisclosed dollars to develop a more robust direct-mail fundraising program — has been a major bone of contention between Boehner and Cole over the past year.

Boehner has in some cases moved to bolster fundraising for Republican House candidates without asking for Cole’s approval.

The NRCC-RNC joint fundraising committee, which came to light on Roll Call’s Web site late Friday, is one such case. Contrary to earlier reports, this entity is a brand new joint fundraising committee and will not be headed by former New York Congressman and ex-NRCC Chairman Bill Paxon.

However, with this latest collaboration of eight state GOPs, Boehner developed the idea, discussed it with Cole, and then the two pitched it together to the RNC, which gave the plan its seal of approval. The NRCC is particularly fond of this fundraising committee because the RNC tends to not spend much money on get-out-the-vote operations for Congressional races in presidential cycles.

“This is a value-added way of getting more money into these races,” said the Republican source familiar with the new fundraising committee.

At least 18 House districts look to be competitive in the states Boehner is teaming with, and they could see an infusion of GOP money for voter turnout operations — if the program is successful and substantial funds are raised.

The seats targeted by the Democrats, Republicans — or both — include California’s open Republican-held 4th district, and the 11th district, where freshman Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) is set to face former state Assemblyman Dean Andal (R) in the fall. Also on this list is Connecticut’s 4th district, where Democrats are expected to make another run at Rep. Christopher Shays (R), and the 5th district, where the Republicans are nominally threatening freshman Rep. Christopher Murphy (D).

In Illinois, the targeted seats include the open 11th and 18th districts, as well as the 6th, 8th and 10th districts. Each of those seats held by Republicans, except for the 8th district, which is held by Rep. Melissa Bean (D), a perennial GOP target.

In Michigan, the targeted seats include the 7th district, held by freshman Rep. Tim Walberg (R), and the 9th district, held by veteran Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R).

In North Carolina, Nevada and Washington, the targeted races involve Reps. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), Jon Porter (R-Nev.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.).

In Ohio, the Minority Leader’s home state, four Republican-held seats are being threatened, including the 1st district, held by Rep. Steve Chabot; the 2nd district, held by Rep. Jean Schmidt; the open 15th district, where state Sen. Steve Stivers (R), a Boehner recruit, is facing 2006 nominee Mary Jo Kilroy (D); and the open 16th district, where state Sen. John Boccieri, a DCCC recruit, is facing state Sen. Kirk Schuring (R).

A DCCC spokesman noted that most of states participating in the joint committee have races where the House GOP is on the defensive.

“Less than five months to the election and Republicans are stuck playing defense in GOP seats across the country,” DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell said. “With all of the problems at the NRCC, it is not surprising Mr. Boehner would look at alternative ways to raise millions from big oil and other special interests.”

It is not uncommon for state parties on both sides of the aisle to collaborate with party leaders on Capitol Hill to fundraise for Congressional candidates and get-out-the-vote efforts in House elections.

Typically, state parties will accept federally raised campaign dollars from Members’ campaign committees, which they can then spend on “non-allocable” volunteer activities — in other words, any activity that uses the physical labor of volunteers. In some cases, that includes a direct-mail advertising campaign, as volunteers can, for example, be used to stamp the postal permit on mail pieces. Transfers from leadership political action committees cannot be spent for such purposes.

Money from Members of Congress can be transferred to state parties in unlimited amounts, and used directly to pay for non-allocable, volunteer activities. Money from a national party committee can also be transferred in unlimited amounts, but can only be used to pay for a state party’s overhead — for instance, the rent, officer salaries and things of that nature.

However, such transfers of funds then free up money for a state party to use on political activities.

Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party, said his party’s participation in the joint fundraising committee with the seven other state parties involved would help Golden State Republicans fend off Democratic attacks in the November elections. He said the money raised would also go toward the RNC’s GOTV “Victory” program, which it runs in almost every state.

“It’s a way for the state party, along with NRCC, to help raise money,” Barajas said. “It will go to the Victory program and the get-out-the-vote effort, and will also combat the Democratic-leaning 527s, which are sure to have quite a bit of influence in this election.”