By Molly K. Hooper - 06/15/10 10:00 AM EDT
Republicans will be feted on Tuesday night after raking in more than $5 million for the GOP campaign arm during a recent six-week dues drive.
According to the co-chairman of the effort, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the GOP leadership will honor 149 Republican lawmakers who anted up in the fundraising drive, which replaced the annual GOP House-Senate dinner this year.
The fundraising news comes weeks after a devastating special election for Republicans in the race to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.). Many GOP lawmakers as well as pundits predicted Republicans would win the seat and capture momentum heading into the midterm elections.
But former Murtha aide Mark Critz won the race easily, continuing the Democrats’ recent dominance in hard-fought special elections.
As head of the National Republican Congressional Committee during the last cycle, Cole often butted heads with Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), but the tension between the two lawmakers appears to have eased.
The former head of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said the campaign committee received “$5.87 million in pledges, just over $5 million in hand, so we surpassed our goal.”
In order to qualify for participation in the drive, freshmen had to give $20,000, rank-and-file lawmakers paid $30,000 and ranking members had to come up with $100,000.
The dues drive was held in addition to the annual dues that members pay, which range from $10,000 to 25,000.
Of the members participating in the effort, Cole singled out his fellow dues-drive co-chairmen, Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), for their ability to rake in cash from fellow members.
Cole called the results “a real shot in the arm at a critical point. The fact that members are willing to step up is a very good omen about how they think the fall elections will go. They don’t expect to be hard-pressed by the Democrats and they understand that this exceptional group of challengers that we have is going to need all the ammunition they can get.”
However, Democrats enjoy significant cash-on-hand advantages over their Republican counterparts.
According to the most recent campaign filing deadline, June 14, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had $27.2 million cash on hand, compared to the NRCC’s $11.4 million.
Cole noted that Republicans have made significant strides in catching up to Democrats in the cash race, recently outraising them on a month-to-month basis.
Democrats are confident the GOP’s fundraising will not translate into success this fall.
“While Republicans shake down their special interests, our grassroots supporters are energized by House Democrats’ efforts to make economic progress. House Democrats passed strong Wall Street reform and will continue to put middle-class families before big corporate special interests,” DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer told The Hill.
Cole, who oversaw previous House-Senate GOP dinners, said the dues drive was more successful in raising money for the NRCC.
“You net a lot more out of this than we normally would out of the dinner,” which Cole said costs over $1 million to put on — not counting the telemarketing and mail in the lead-up to that event, co-hosted by the NRCC and the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).
Though the June 8, 2009, event took in $14.5 million, it was far less than money raised in previous years when a GOP president was in office and available to keynote the event.
In 2008, when then-President George W. Bush (R) headlined the dinner, the event took in $21.5 million.
Last year’s dinner was marred by a public flap over which GOP personality would headline the event: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin or ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.). Gingrich subsequently addressed the crowd, and Palin attended the dinner.
Cole intends to recommend that Republicans hold the dues drive on an annual basis.