By Josephine Hearn - 11/02/05 12:00 AM EST
As scores of House Democrats decide among three candidates vying to be vice chairman of their caucus, fundraising prowess is likely to emerge as one of the key factors influencing their votes.
All three candidates — Reps. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), John Larson (Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) — have contributed to their colleagues, lavishing money around the caucus to highlight the strength of their donor bases and show that they will be active in trying to win back the majority.
Personal contributions from the candidates’ campaign committees or leadership political action committees can also sway members who have yet to throw their support behind one of the candidates. Ninety of the 206 members eligible to vote in the election are publicly undecided.
The post is the fourth-ranking leadership position.
Crowley has given $88,500 to his colleagues, followed by Schakowsky with $36,000 and Larson with $19,000. The bulk of the contributions have gone to the 10 members of the Frontline program, a fundraising apparatus for the caucus’s most vulnerable incumbents.
Yet the candidates have spread donations beyond the frontline program, often supporting those who have already backed their candidacy or those who are still undecided.
Crowley gave to 13 members outside of the Frontline program this year, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Of those, six are publicly supporting him, six are undecided and one has declared for Schakowsky.
Schakowsky donated to six members outside of Frontline. Four are publicly backing her, one is undecided and another is a Crowley supporter.
Larson contributed to five non-Frontline lawmakers. Among them are one supporter for Crowley, one for Schakowsky, one for Larson and two undecided.
In a race for vice chairman in which where no one candidate is clearly in the lead, even small gestures such as personal contributions from candidates can influence members.
“I don’t think many people are looking for a quid pro quo,” Schakowsky said. “But, among the many things they’re looking at, [they may ask] ‘Is this person going to be concerned about my particular race and my problems?’ … I’m not looking at whose list they’re on. The most important thing for me is to add Democrats.”
Crowley said he felt some members, such as Rep. Brian Higgins (N.Y.), had been swayed in part by his largesse.
“It’s always an element, if you’ve built relationships and been helpful,” he said. “I think in the climate we’re living in right now where Democrats are hungry to win seats, that I think member-to-member services and support, which is what fundraising is, is an essential leg of leadership.”
Crowley has organized fundraisers this year for Reps. Melissa Bean (Ill.), Mel Carnahan (Mo.), Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), Kendrick Meek (Fla.) and Al Green (Texas). He has two additional events planned for Reps. David Scott (Ga.) and John Salazar (Colo.).
Four of the 10 members of the Frontline program are supporting Crowley.
Schakowsky has arranged fundraisers this year for several prominent challengers, and last year she held an event in Chicago for five Democratic incumbents from Texas who had been jeopardized by the state’s Republican-led redistricting effort.
She has also raised money for Rep. Lane Evans (Ill.) and for an effort to defeat California Proposition 77, which could endanger some Democratic incumbents in that state.
Both Crowley and Schakowsky have active leadership PACs. Schakowsky recently held an event in Chicago with liberal radio host Al Franken to raise money for her PAC, Progressive Choices. Larson is in the process of setting up his own leadership PAC, his spokesman said.
Competition in the race for vice chairman may heat up next week after the outcome of the New Jersey governor’s race is known. If Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) wins, which the candidates for vice chairman are counting on, he could appoint Rep. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to succeed him in the Senate before year’s end.
Menendez is chairman of the House Democratic caucus. If he leaves the House, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would succeed him as chairman, vacating the position of vice chairman.
Crowley supporters (52)
Larson supporters (18)
Schakowsky supporters (46)
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