Sen. Cornyn prods stingy colleagues

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is making a final push to prod his colleagues to contribute more to the mission to capture the Senate.

Senior Senate Democrats have shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars from their campaign funds to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) this election cycle, ranking among its biggest donors. 

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Republicans, however, do not rank among the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s (NRSC) biggest donors, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group tracking fundraising. 

This has been a source of frustration for Cornyn, who invited colleagues to NRSC headquarters last week to emphasize the disparity in generosity between Democratic and Republican senators. 

“The Democrats have always been more aggressive at that than we have. What I did is I showed them what they’ve done and I showed them where the gap was and challenged them to step up,” he told The Hill. 

Cornyn said he showed colleagues a slide illustrating how much Democratic senators gave compared to Republicans. 

Twelve of the DSCC’s 22 biggest donors this cycle are Democratic senators, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

The biggest donor is Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), whose Dan 10 fundraising committee gave $600,000 to the committee through the end of May. 

Second on the list is retiring Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who gave $386,000 from his Friends of Kent Conrad campaign fund. 

“I was helped to get elected by the DSCC, so I’ve always been helpful to it, and we have a lot of close races and a lot of people who I believe in who are up for reelection, and I want to do everything I can to help them,” said Conrad. 

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has given $335,000 from his Durbin for Congress Committee, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) gave $350,000 from his John Kerry for Senate fund. 

Aside from Conrad, who is leaving Congress after December, the biggest donors are committee chairmen eager to keep their gavels or someone with eyes on a powerful panel chairmanship. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) gave $150,000 from his campaign fund; Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) each gave $150,000. 

DSCC Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) gave $125,000 from her own campaign funds, while Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is in line to take over the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee if Democrats hang on to the Senate majority, gave $110,000 from his Wyden for Senate fund. 

Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who could face a difficult reelection race in 2014, gave $100,000 from his campaign fund, a sign that he might be contemplating retirement instead of hoarding cash for another campaign. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) both gave $100,000 from their campaign funds. 

“We appreciate everything that members of our caucus are doing to help us keep our majority in November,” said Shripal Shah, DSCC press secretary. “We didn’t start off this cycle with the friendliest map, but thanks to the strong backing of our caucus, we are in a much stronger position heading into the fall.” 

The list of the NRSC’s top donors paints a very different picture. Not a single Republican senator ranks among the NRSC’s 20 biggest donors for the 2012 election cycle, according to the most recent data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. 

The committee’s biggest donor so far this cycle is Goldman Sachs. Its employees have given more than $250,000 through May.

Cornyn is trying to change that in the final months of the campaign.

“That’s why the policy lunch was at NRSC. He made another big push for participation,” said a GOP strategist. 

While Republican senators have not given tens of thousands of dollars from their campaign funds, they have helped in other ways.  

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has in the past sparked the irritation of his leaders by sitting on a huge campaign war chest and giving little to the Senate Republican fundraising committee. 

Cornyn approached Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, and asked him to consider donating his time to the campaign effort. Shelby rewarded the request by recently hosting a fundraising event with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in Huntsville, Ala., that raised a large sum. Shelby has also hosted several events for the committee in New York City, a financial-services hub where he holds significant sway.

Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have contributed their time by co-chairing the outreach effort to political action committees, and Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) have co-chaired a program to recruit support from young professionals.