Chairmen stiffing DCCC on dues despite tough electoral year

Many House Democrats are not paying their campaign dues.

Even though they face a Republican wave that could wipe out their majority, Democrats in the lower chamber are falling well short of the “dues goal” set by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

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According to a document obtained by The Hill, the campaign committee is short millions of dollars of dues from dozens of members, including a number of key chairmen and other leaders.

Collecting member dues is an annual exercise in frustration for both parties. Typically, some members give closer to the election because they want to first assess how much money they will need for their own reelection. But campaign committee chiefs say they need the money as soon as possible to help map out their spending plans.

By the looks of things, DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) cannot be too pleased with his members.

An internal House Democratic dues and donations spreadsheet updated through Jan. 21 shows a caucus that is largely top-heavy in the DCCC donating department.

While leadership officials have ponied up, some committee chairmen are running well behind their expected pace.

Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (Wis.) has given $100,000 of the $500,000 expected for the cycle. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (N.Y.), who has the same goal, has transferred $150,000. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), whose dues were set at $250,000, has given DCCC $45,000.

Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (N.Y.), who frustrated the DCCC last cycle by not hitting his mark, has given $65,000 of the $250,000 due. Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (Texas) has given less — $50,000 of the $250,000 expected by the DCCC.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (Mo.), who is being targeted by the GOP this cycle, has not paid any of his $250,000 dues, according to the document.

House Administration Committee Chairman Robert Brady (Pa.), whose seat is not considered vulnerable, has also not transferred any of his campaign funds to the DCCC.

Leadership officials, meanwhile, are leading by example.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) each surpassed his or her $800,000 in dues, and each had raised substantial sums for the DCCC and for vulnerable “Frontline” candidates.

Pelosi was the lead fundraiser and contributor, paying $850,000 in dues, donating $3.3 million to Frontline and “Red to Blue” candidates, and raising $17 million of her targeted $25 million in funds for the entire campaign committee. Pelosi has left herself only $315,000 in cash for her own reelection to her San Francisco-based seat.

Van Hollen, meanwhile, has raised more than half of his $10 million goal.

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As a whole, the DCCC is faring better than the National Republican Congressional Committee. At the end of last month, the DCCC had $16.7 million in cash after raising a total of $55.7 million in 2009, compared to the NRCC, whose cash reserves stood at $2.67 million at the end of January after raising $35.8 million in 2009 and, last month, paying off $2 million in debt.

But with the political winds against them, House Democrats need every dollar they can get to help preserve their majority.

Members who have given, or raised, above and beyond what they have been expected to include Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Chairman Edward Markey (Mass.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (Calif.).

Other Democrats not in leadership who have already hit their dues goal for the cycle are Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), Mike Honda (Calif.), Steve Israel (N.Y.), Chellie Pingree (Maine) and Brad Sherman (Calif.).

A total of seven “exclusive subcommittee chairs” have paid no dues and raised $10,000 for the DCCC or for individual candidates — a distinction 68 additional members of the caucus share. And of those 68, 37 are in competitive races, according to The Cook Political Report.

DCCC Communications Director Jennifer Crider said, “The DCCC is a member participation organization, and we appreciate everything our members do for us, especially in these tough economic times.”

Weeks before the 2008 elections, the DCCC cracked down on dozens of tardy members and by Oct. 21 had received past dues from a number of chairmen and at least half of owed dues from all but four exclusive subcommittee chairmen and 29 other members not in competitive races.

At that time, DCCC singled out those who were still delinquent. Members named in that 2008 memo who are behind the DCCC 2010 dues pace include Reps. Towns, Bart Stupak (Mich.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Jim McDermott (Wash.) and Alan Mollohan (W.Va.), among others.