Pelosi Puts Heat on Chairmen

Posted September 27, 2010 at 6:43pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a rare appearance before a meeting of Democratic committee chairmen last week to make a direct, pre-election appeal for cash.

The California Democrat used the session to chide the senior lawmakers for not doing enough to try to maintain the majority; she said the bulk of them — two-thirds — have yet to meet their Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dues goals for the cycle.

“She said, ‘Your money was budgeted for; you owe us this money,'” according to a Democratic lobbyist familiar with the meeting.

“Her basic purpose was to say, ‘Look, we need you to step up,'” a leadership aide said. “When you start adding up the sum of money that right now is still hanging from the trees out there that Members haven’t contributed, you are talking about a significant war chest that could help some of our most vulnerable members stay here.”

Most Members have failed to meet their DCCC obligations this cycle. According to an Aug. 24 document that tracks DCCC giving obtained by Roll Call, 186 Democratic Members have yet to pay in full, owing the campaign committee about $24 million. Thirty-eight Democrats — not including the party’s most vulnerable Frontline members — haven’t paid any dues.

Democratic leaders had set a goal of raising about $47 million from Members over the two-year period. Pelosi’s latest push for money comes just days before the end of the third quarter Federal Election Commission filing deadline and before Members leave town for the elections.

Two party leaders, two DCCC vice chairmen, all of the Caucus’ chief deputy whips and two-thirds of the party’s chairmen have yet to meet their dues goals. Subcommittee chairmen are even less generous — only three subcommittee chairmen have met their ask, and just one chairman of a subpanel of an exclusive committee has fully paid up — Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who is eyeing a bid for the Ways and Means gavel held by Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.). Levin has also paid his dues.

Since the dues sheet came out last month, Levin has contributed an additional $150,000 to the campaign committee, bringing his DCCC contribution to $500,000, said Hilarie Chambers, his chief of staff.

“After his August primary, Mr. Levin’s total devotion has been November 2, helping his colleagues and doing everything he can to retain the Majority,” Chambers said in an e-mail. “He believes this is a crossroads election and everything we have worked for is at stake.”

DCCC dues vary and are based largely on seniority and status: Top leaders’ dues are the highest at $800,000 per cycle; exclusive committee chairmen owe $500,000. DCCC vice chairmen and chief deputy whips are obligated to give $300,000; chairmen and exclusive subcommittee chairmen are required to give $250,000; Members on exclusive committees are expected to give $200,000; and subcommittee chairmen on nonexclusive committees are asked to give $150,000. Junior lawmakers are asked for $125,000 over the two-year period.

Pelosi has been upping the pressure on Members to give more to the DCCC. The Speaker has asked for money in two letters to Members and regularly stands up in Caucus meetings to ask her colleagues to contribute more.

“Her favorite joke is to tell Members to open up your wallets, let the moths fly out and then use that money, because we get the majority by what we pay in now,” a senior Democratic aide said.

Democrats need to be team players, and paying dues is part of that, DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen said last week.

“Everyone should give their share to the team effort,” he said.

The Maryland Democrat has given $600,000 to the DCCC, topping his goal of $450,000. He has also raised more than $10.1 million for the campaign arm, according to the latest dues sheet.

“We are appreciative of everything our Members have done for the DCCC,” said Jennifer Crider, DCCC spokeswoman. “In the final stretch of the election cycle, DCCC leadership is asking all Members to do more to ensure our success this cycle.”

One former Democratic aide advised against ignoring Pelosi’s appeal.

“If they retain the Majority and she is Speaker, she won’t forget who didn’t do their fair share when Steering Committee has to decide who is chair, and that might even be the case in the minority for ranking member slots,” the former leadership aide said. “Senior Members sitting with millions of dollars in their accounts should know that their name is being written in the book. I wouldn’t want to be there.”

It appears at least a few Democrats are heeding Pelosi’s call. DCCC Vice Chairman Joe Crowley (N.Y.) contributed $125,000 in August, bringing his total contribution to the DCCC to $325,000, which is $25,000 more than his goal.

“It’s always good for the Speaker to weigh in” and let Members know how important it is for them to hit their obligation, Crowley said.

“I may be a bit more conscious about what the state of play is,” he said. “The statement I want to make to them is I believe in our Caucus and what we’re doing and the people we are supporting and the Frontline members and hopefully that message is being disseminated and picked up.”