Freshmen Democrats in the House launch sweeping fundraising effort

Democratic freshmen in the House have launched a robust push to engage the entire class of 2013 in fundraising for the party’s campaign committee, an effort spurred by the rallying call: “Bring back our endangered classmates in 2014!”

The effort began two weeks ago among a few dozen freshman Democratic lawmakers, over a meal of barbecue and macaroni and cheese catered by Hill Country BBQ at the DCCC offices on Capitol Hill. 

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The group, led by Reps. Dan Kildee (Mich.) and Lois Frankel (Fla.), set a goal of 100 percent participation in donations or dues — which range from $125,000 to $300,000 — from the freshman class  within the first reporting quarter of the 2014 cycle. 

A committee source at the dinner described the push as “incredibly rare and very aggressive,” and noted that the rate of giving from the class of 2013 has already been higher than usual.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) was “impressed and excited” by the initiative, the source said.

“As a whole, you make a much bigger impact than individually, and this commitment — and your leadership — will make a huge difference for the DCCC,” Israel said, according to the source.

The DCCC spent more than $60 million in independent expenditures in 2012 on both offense and defense, ultimately helping to elect 49 freshmen. Twenty-six of the newcomers flipped control of their districts.

Democrats face a significant challenge in taking control of the House in 2014: redistricting has emphasized partisan control and narrowed the number of swing districts in the nation. That complicates the party’s efforts to net the 17 seats it needs to regain the majority. 

But President Obama has indicated an interest in taking back the House, and the freshman Democrats’ pledge offers the DCCC another boost in what looks to be a difficult cycle.

Kildee said the caucus is already on board with the effort, and that “most folks were committed to doing this anyways.”

“It’s just really a matter of communicating with one another, and sort of reinforcing the mutual obligation to one another” to keep colleagues on track, Kildee told lawmakers at the dinner, according to the DCCC source.

Republican freshmen, too, are stepping up to the plate for their campaign committee, the party says. 

Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that the committee has had strong participation from its freshman members.

“At the NRCC, we always strive for 100 percent participation from our members, and as a member-driven organization, we have already placed freshmen in key leadership roles to work with their colleagues on hitting their goals,” Scarpinato said. 

He cited Rep. Roger Williams (Texas), who is chairing the NRCC’s March fundraising dinner, and Reps. Ann Wagner (Mo.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Richard Hudson (N.C.) and Luke Messer (Ind.), who have been named captains for the event. 

Among Democrats, a number of freshmen have stepped up to support Kildee and Frankel, including Reps. Joaquín Castro (Texas), Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.) and Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.). They have all volunteered to help collect dues from their freshman colleagues.

Castro and Frankel have both hosted events with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that brought in $100,000 or more for the committee, while Rep. Mark Pocan (Wis.), who is co-chairman of the DCCC’s labor council, has raised more than $150,000 from the labor community for the committee.

In the month of January, Rep. Jared Huffman (Calif.) gave $50,000 in dues, while Kildee gave $25,000.

Kildee drew a contrast between Democrats and members of the House Republican Conference, which has fractured over multiple controversial votes on tax and spending deals in Congress. 

Kildee, an assistant Democratic whip and freshman representative to the Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee, says that freshman Democrats “have been talking about trying to stay together, stay unified.”

And one of the ways they plan to stay unified, Kildee said, is to come back whole after 2014.

It will be a challenge for the Democratic freshmen; 21 of them won their election by less than 10 percentage points.

“We feel we can make a difference, but one of the things we have to do is to be here in order to do that,” Kildee told the Democratic freshmen.

--This story was updated at 9:37 a.m. to reflect the location of the freshman meal.