DSCC solicits cash for 'Shut Them Down Fund'

With the White House and congressional leaders continuing talks to avert a government shutdown Thursday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hit Republicans in a fundraising appeal, saying they are "intent on shutting down the federal government" and accusing them of "catering to each and every demand of the Tea Party."  

"Fight back with a gift of $5 or more to the DSCC's Shut Them Down Project," DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil wrote in the fundraising email. "I want to raise $100,000 in the next 36 hours to show the strength of our grassroots support — and call out the Republican extremists." 

"As the shutdown and budget battles continue, we'll be watching their every move," Cecil concluded. "Your gift helps us keep up the fight."

The fundraising appeal comes a day after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warned supporters in a similar email that "Tea Party Republicans are threatening to shut down the government on Friday unless we surrender to their outrageous demands."

Penned by DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.), that appeal went out late Wednesday, asking for small donations to the committee's "GOP Accountability Fund," with a goal of raising $50,000 by Friday "so we can hold Speaker Boehner and his Tea Party fringe Republicans immediately accountable for shutting down the government."

As the shutdown rhetoric intensified on Capitol Hill throughout the day Thursday, Republicans repeatedly accused Democrats of "exploiting" the potential for a shutdown, with several pointing to the DCCC's Wednesday fundraising appeal. 

Another meeting at the White House on Thursday afternoon between President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) again yielded no budget agreement. Congressional leaders and the White House pledged to continue talks through the night in an attempt to strike a deal.


March fundraising madness as deadline approaches

March has seen a fundraising blitz as candidates, members of Congress and campaign committees rush to swell their coffers before the March 31 quarterly reporting deadline.

This month was the busiest for fundraising since last September, the height of the 2010 midterm campaign, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks lawmakers' fundraising. There were at least 500 events held in March, almost double the number that were held in February.

In addition to a flurry of email pitches, Democrats have been deploying their top draws to rake in the cash. President Obama was in New York City Tuesday night for two fundraising events that reportedly raised some $1.5 million for the Democratic National Committee. His appearances followed several high-profile events headlined by Vice President Joe Biden.

Republicans have been doing the same thing. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for instance, is set to headline the National Republican Congressional Committee's annual dinner Wednesday, which has brought in more than $10 million. And Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said this week he's "spending 5-6 hours a day on the phone raising money."

The spring rush comes at a time when the presidential race has yet to gear up, which means there's an opening for congressional candidates and lawmakers to make their pitches to donors who aren't yet weary of opening their checkbooks.


NJ Gov. Christie expected to add millions to House GOP dinner bank

The National Republican Congressional Committee's annual fundraising dinner will bring in some $10 million for House Republicans, an NRCC spokesman confirms.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie headlines the Wednesday evening event, which is projected to bring in at least $3 million more for the committee than last year's dinner. The NRCC raised $7 million from the gathering in 2010 and $6 million from the 2009 dinner. 

Even with his repeated denials on a 2012 presidential run, Christie is still a top draw and some national Republicans continue to urge him to launch a campaign next year. Christie has won over national conservatives with efforts to trim New Jersey's budget deficit and take on organized labor.

Christie has repeatedly said he doesn't think he's ready to be president, but the governor has made sure to keep his national profile high. He came to Washington last month for a major speech at the American Enterprise Institute, where he laid into President Obama and Washington Republicans for not doing enough to tackle the nation's fiscal crisis. 

The committee's 2011 haul comes as the NRCC was just outraised for the second straight month by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in February. The DCCC raised $5.2 million last month to the NRCC's $4.9 million, but Democrats are still struggling to get out from under a hefty debt. The DCCC reported just over $17 million in remaining debt last month, while the NRCC reported just $9.5 million in debt.  

The NRCC has also been trying to collect on outstanding dues owed to the committee by members. Several members were furious after their names ended up in the press as among those behind on delivering their dues to the committee. Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) apologized to several members earlier this month and denied that the NRCC was the source of the leak.


New RNC chairman spends majority of time dialing for dollars

The new chairman of the Republican National Committee is spending the majority of his workday courting donors as he seeks to rebuild the organization's credibility.

"I am spending 5-6 hours a day on the phone raising money and we have gotten our mail program back up and running the way it should be," Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, told The Political Insider, a conservative publication. "We have work to do but we have taken great steps in the right direction with both mail and rebuilding relationships with major donors."

Many in the Republican donor community soured on the committee during former chairman Michael Steele's reign because of a perceived misuse of funds

Priebus, who has been on the job for about three months, said raising money was his main focus and predicted President Obama will "run the first billion dollar campaign" in 2012.

"We need to match him dollar for dollar," he said. "If he can spend $750 million to $1 billion dollars in messaging to try and mask and undo the fiscal realities of where we are in this country, that’s why the money issue is going to be our biggest challenge."


High court rejects GOP challenge to campaign finance restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take a case challenging limits on party spending. 

Late last year, the Republican National Committee, along with former Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.), asked the high court to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of limits on what political parties can spend in coordination with candidates.  

The decision by the court on Monday not to grant cert in the case comes as something of a surprise to observers and a relief to campaign finance watchdogs. 

In the wake of the high court's landmark decision last January in Citizens United v. FEC, which paved the way for corporate spending on campaign ads, watchdogs have worried about subsequent court challenges to current campaign finance law.

A federal appeals court has already rejected the GOP's argument in Cao v. FEC, and last summer, the Supreme Court also declined to hear a challenge to the ban on so-called soft money contributions to political parties. 

The decision not to hear the case was hailed by the Campaign Legal Center, a group fighting efforts to loosen campaign finance restrictions. 

"This morning the Supreme Court deferred to precedent and declined to hear this attack on the longstanding limits on party coordinated spending," the center's attorney, Tara Malloy, said in a statement. 

Malloy said the challenge "would have blown huge loopholes in the federal campaign finance laws and enabled large-scale circumvention of the individual contribution limits."


Senate Dems tout 'best February' of off-year fundraising

Senate Democrats had a second strong fundraising month in 2011 as the party looks to build a firewall around its thin majority.

After raising $2.63 million in January, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday revealed that it pulled in $3.43 million last month. That "haul is more than any Senate campaign committee has ever raised at this point in the election cycle," according to a DSCC release.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised slightly less, bringing in $3.34 million, according to its latest Federal Election Commission filing. The NRSC's cash reserve is running low -- it reported having $868,000 in the bank -- but it has less debt than its Democratic counterpart.

The DSCC ended the month with $5.1 million cash on hand — almost double the total it reported last month. The committee spent $1 million in February, and its debt remained virtually untouched at $8.6 million. The NRSC, meanwhile, is carrying $5.3 million in debt having paid down some $1.2 million since its last report.

Democrats said they're on track for a record haul this cycle.

"This is the strongest fundraising effort ever by any Senate campaign committee at this point in the election cycle," Guy Cecil, executive director of the DSCC, said in a statement.

"We are ahead of our goals and we are not letting up. Not only will we have the resources to preserve Democratic seats, we will also have the organization and funding we need to win in Republican-held seats."

--Updated at 1:06 p.m.