Some Members Shun Pelosi’s Cash

Posted October 20, 2010 at 6:44pm

Correction Appended

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s allies think her fundraising efforts will help guarantee the Californian another term as House Democratic leader. But at least three vulnerable Members are saying her money is no good here.

Among them is Rep. Jim Marshall (Ga.), who, along with Rep. Mike McIntyre (N.C.), said last week that he won’t support Pelosi again to lead his party. Marshall spokesman Doug Moore said Wednesday that his boss doesn’t want Pelosi’s cash either.

‘He wouldn’t take it, and I don’t think she’d offer,’ Moore said. ‘They don’t see eye to eye politically on most things.’

Pelosi has struggled to keep the support of her vulnerable Members in recent weeks, with about a dozen refusing to commit to giving her the House gavel next year.

Sophomore Rep. Jason Altmire, whose campaign ads boast that he has stood up to Pelosi and President Barack Obama, said he is also keeping his distance from Pelosi and her money.

‘I’ve raised quite a bit of money … and it’s come from a variety of sources,’ said the Pennsylvania Democrat, who has accepted $5,000 from the leadership political action committee of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Altmire said this week that he hoped Pelosi would decide against running for Speaker ‘ assuming Democrats can beat back a GOP takeover on Nov. 2. He described his relationship with House leaders as ‘strained’ and said he had not spoken to Pelosi about his campaign in months.

Rep. Walt Minnick has also signaled he would prefer a more moderate leader and has waved away Pelosi’s financial support.

‘Historically, if a party loses significant seats or the majority, there is a challenge in leadership,’ said Minnick spokesman John Foster, adding that the Idaho Democrat ‘prefers that the leadership of both parties be more centrist and look more toward governing from the middle.’

Minnick is the only member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline program, which supports the party’s most endangered incumbents, who has not received any direct contributions from Pelosi’s leadership PAC. Pelosi has contributed to 68 House Democratic candidates through her PAC so far this cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Pelosi has always been the Democrats’ fundraising powerhouse, outpacing all other Members in both raising and giving; she has raised $57.2 million so far for the DCCC, incumbents and challengers. And Pelosi’s backers say her efforts to raise money on behalf of Democrats will help keep her atop the leadership ladder.

But not necessarily. Even Democrats who have taken her money aren’t devoted to Pelosi as the next party leader.

Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.) has vowed to vote against her if she seeks the Speakership next year (assuming Democrats retain control of the chamber), even though Pelosi has contributed at least $14,000 to his campaign.

And two New York Democrats, Reps. Michael McMahon and Scott Murphy, recently told local editorial boards that they wanted to wait until after the elections before committing to voting for Pelosi as leader, even though each has received tens of thousands of dollars from Pelosi this cycle.

Much of Pelosi’s fundraising over the past two years has been for the DCCC. Although several Members have steered clear of campaign contributions from Pelosi’s PAC and campaign accounts, they are still open to accepting party committee money.

‘She’s given her money to anybody who wants it,’ one Democratic strategist said. ‘If they are taking [DCCC] independent expenditure money, they are taking her money one way or the other.’

The National Republican Congressional Committee has sought to tie Democratic incumbents and challengers to Pelosi through a series of television ads this cycle, and one Democratic leadership aide speculated that Members might worry that direct contributions from Pelosi could provide additional fodder for their opponents.

‘These guys get spooked about everything Republicans throw up against the wall,’ the aide said of vulnerable Democrats, adding that avoiding direct Pelosi contributions ‘probably, in their mind, takes one attack off the table.’

‘People are fighting for their political lives right now, so I’m sure they’re making decisions that they think are in the best interest of their campaigns,’ the aide said.

In a number of instances, Democrats are running as much against their GOP opponents as they are against Pelosi. Rep. Lincoln Davis, for example, recently launched a 30-second spot showing images of Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) with ‘X’ marks over their faces.

‘In Congress, I’m independent,’ the Tennessee Democrat says in the background. ‘I stand up to either party when it’s wrong.’

Davis is among the Democrats who have not gotten any money directly from Pelosi this cycle. But the DCCC’s independent expenditure arm has spent $286,000 defending his seat.

McIntyre, another vulnerable Democrat whom Republicans have tried to align with Pelosi, recently predicted the Speaker would voluntarily step aside even if Democrats keep the majority on Nov. 2.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group, released an ad Friday blasting the ‘McIntyre-Pelosi agenda’ and showing side-by-side photos of the pair. An earlier NRCC spot also tied McIntyre to the Speaker, mentioning Pelosi by name three times.

‘From what I hear, she’s probably not going to run for Speaker again. And, if she does, I’m confident she’s going to have opposition, and I look forward to supporting that opposition,’ McIntyre told WWAY-TV.

So far, Pelosi has not signaled that she is considering stepping down, and Democratic leadership aides and lobbyists downplayed McIntyre’s comments. Pelosi has been Speaker since January 2007.

And no potential challenger has emerged to try to unseat her. Marshall and Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) have both said they would prefer Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton to lead the Caucus next year. But Skelton spokesman Will Chapman said that while the Missouri Democrat was ‘flattered by their comments,’ he had no interest in the job.

Despite such chatter, a senior aide to a moderate Democrat said there’s no organized effort to get rid of Pelosi. ‘Everyone is focused on his district,’ the aide said. Members who have said they won’t vote for her are showing ‘that they are in deep-ass trouble,’ and it’s not clear whether enough of them will even win their re-election bids to affect any potential Speaker race.

‘If those people lose, she’s fine,’ the aide said.

Meanwhile, Pelosi appears to be devoting all of her time and energy to the midterm elections. ‘The Speaker’s focus is on Democrats winning the election and retaining the majority, which we will,’ Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said.

One Democratic strategist said Pelosi ‘is going to let her work talk for itself.’

And if she succeeds in staving off a GOP takeover, most Democrats still think Pelosi will be safe.

‘If we retain the majority, of course she is going to run for Speaker,’ said one former leadership aide, who is now downtown. “If she pulls this off, talk about turning water into wine. … Even if we lose, I’m not so sure she steps down.”

Anna Palmer and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

Correction: Oct. 20, 2010

The article misstated which public officials appear with an ‘X’ over their faces in a Rep. Lincoln Davis ad. The ad shows Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner.