Steele shows fundraising savvy and spreads the wealth around

GOP Chairman Michael Steele has raised more money in his tenure than his Dem counterpart — and he’s sharing the wealth.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele has raised more money in the first seven months of his tenure than his Democratic counterpart, and he is spreading that wealth to Republicans around the country.

According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports that run from Feb. 1, Steele’s first full month as chairman, until the end of August, the RNC has a $6 million advantage, having raised $59.8 million. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised $53.5 million in the same period.

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And the GOP is pressing that advantage in New Jersey and Virginia, where electoral wins can spur excitement among an already-active donor base.

The RNC said it will spend $7 million on electing Bob McDonnell, the party’s gubernatorial candidate in Virginia. RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen told The Hill the party also plans to spend about $3.3 million to help elect former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in New Jersey.

Last month, the RNC sent nearly $300,000 to the Virginia Republican Party, the latest in an ongoing series of investments it has made in the state. It also donated $350,000 to McDonnell’s campaign.

Because of differing state laws on campaign funding, the national party is severely limited in the amount of money it can give to the Garden State GOP.

Instead, the party has paid for staffers on the ground, with the RNC paying salaries for at least 16 staffers, according to FEC reports.

“We’re very happy with where we are, and we’ve got two big races this year where we’re going to [devote] the resources that will allow us to be competitive and, ultimately, to win,” said Trevor Francis, the RNC’s communications director.

Meanwhile, the DNC said it intends to spend $5 million to elect state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) in Virginia. It has not commented on how much the party intends to spend on behalf of New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D). President Barack Obama has held rallies and fundraisers on behalf of both candidates.
Democrats point out that, so far, they have won the most special elections this year.

Hari Sevugan, the DNC’s press secretary, said Democrats “are pleased that we continue to raise the resources we need to accomplish our goals, whether it’s victory in [New York’s 20th congressional district] or helping launch the unprecedented efforts of Organizing for America.”

Both parties have done their part to stoke reaction on the national level. Republicans have put $1 million into efforts to gin up opposition to healthcare, Francis said. FEC reports show the committee spent about $315,000 on media buys in August.

Democrats, meanwhile, spent $152,000 last month on their own advertisements, largely under the umbrella of Organizing for America, the offshoot of Obama’s campaign. The party has polled extensively, too; three different polling firms were paid nearly $350,000 for surveys they conducted in August.

Not all is grim for national Democrats. Both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) raised more than their GOP counterparts.

The DCCC raised about $13.5 million more than the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) this year. Accounting for each committee’s debts, the DCCC has nearly three times more cash available, $6 million, than the NRCC, which would have about $2.2 million after debts are paid.

The DSCC has narrowly outraised the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), but the NRSC is actually in a better financial position, with $5.1 million in the bank and no debts. The DSCC has nearly $6.9 million on hand but still owes $2.9 million to creditors.

Both Republican committees owe their fundraising totals to Steele’s national committee. Though the agreements were in place before Steele became chairman, the RNC has given $2 million each to the Senate and House campaign committees, as first reported by The Hill.

And in a city where business relationships are largely dependent on personal relationships, both committees have relied on trusted advisers for significant consulting work.

Four firms linked closely to Steele and his campaign for the chairmanship have made $360,000 so far during his tenure. On Message Inc., a firm run by Curt and Wes Anderson, has been the biggest beneficiary, pulling in almost $219,000 for voter registration and opinion polls.

Grassroots Targeting, one of the better-known Republican microtargeting shops in the country, operated by Blaise Hazelwood, has made $70,000 so far.

South Carolina media specialist Jim Dyke & Associates has made $57,000, some of it coming from production of Web videos for the RNC. And Marsh Copsey & Associates, a strategic communications firm, has received $14,000 from the RNC.

Meanwhile, the DNC has relied heavily on AKPD Message and Media, the firm founded by Obama’s senior political adviser, David Axelrod. Axelrod sold his interest in the firm before moving into an office in the White House, but Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, remains a senior adviser to the company.

So far, the DNC has paid AKPD Message and Media $296,784 since February.

Democrats say they do not see a problem with hiring an established firm, especially given that Axelrod no longer holds an ownership stake in the company.