DCCC mulls $50K hike in member dues

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) may increase lawmakers’ dues and impose a new rule that requires members to raise money specifically for the DCCC to protect the new Democratic majority.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) may increase lawmakers’ dues and impose a new rule that requires members to raise money specifically for the DCCC to protect the new Democratic majority.

Dues would rise by an average of about $50,000 per lawmaker, and the committee would ask members to raise another couple hundred thousand dollars through fundraisers in Washington or their hometowns, Democratic sources said.

DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider declined to confirm any details.

“The dues for this cycle have not been finalized. A members’ task force is looking at the DCCC dues structure and will be making a recommendation,” she said.

If those plans go forward, however, they would not be a surprise. DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill last week that the Democrats’ new majority status should make members more willing to share the wealth with the campaign committee.

“People want to stay in the majority because there are lots of things they want to accomplish,” Van Hollen said. “So far, we’ve been getting a lot of people coming up and saying, ‘We want to help.’”

Several members cut $25,000 and $50,000 checks to the DCCC between Election Day and the end of 2006, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), former DCCC Chairman Patrick Kennedy (R.I.), and several others contributed $50,000. Reps. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and a dozen other lawmakers gave $25,000, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

Doggett was the only early contributor with more than $1 million cash on hand.

The new dues scale is partly meant to motivate secure lawmakers who are sitting on millions of dollars to give more, said one source. Nearly 20 Democrats had more than $1 million in cash on hand, according to their year-end financial reports. But more than half of that group gave only $150,000 or less to the DCCC.

Getting lawmakers to donate to the party had been difficult during the Democrats’ years in the minority. House Republicans routinely championed the sums raised by the rank-and-file for the party.

Van Hollen said many lawmakers were “non-believers” in early 2005, hesitant to contribute after being in the minority so long.

“It was a lot of: ‘Here we go again, sure, yeah, right,’” Van Hollen said. “But as we got closer to Election Day, more and more people cooperated for a whole variety of reasons. Partly, it was pressure.

“Now that they’re in the majority, people don’t want to go back,” he added.

Former DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) threatened to ban some lawmakers from using the DCCC’s offices if they did not raise more money. Last September, he sent a letter to lawmakers asking that they pony up an extra $50,000 in the final two months of the campaign. Liberal bloggers and activists also pressed House and Senate Democrats to kick in more money when it became clear they might retake the House.

After the 2006 election cycle, Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) had more than $5 million in cash on hand, much of it left over from 2004 when an “invisible” Senate primary was waged during Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential run.

Meehan gave $125,000 to the DCCC, while another likely Senate contender, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), contributed $250,000, followed by another $100,000 in late October 2006.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), an appropriator, was reelected with 85 percent of the vote and has $950,000 in cash-on-hand. He gave $150,000 to the DCCC. Jackson emphasized that he has fulfilled his obligations to the DCCC and is looking out for his own political viability in an expensive media market. “I plan to always —increases in dues notwithstanding — have the resources on hand to protect myself first,” he said.

Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) spent nearly $1.5 million on his 2006 campaign, in which he had no opponent. He had contributed $40,000 to the DCCC by June 2006 and kicked in another $85,000 five weeks before the 2006 election.

Members’ dues are a major source of funding for the party’s campaign committees. Dues levels vary by seniority and stature. New members are generally exempt so they can focus on their own reelection bids.

The majority party often will raise its dues because it is easier for their lawmakers to raise money. But there is still some disparity between parties. While Democrats narrowed the traditional gap in fundraising with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in the last cycle, the NRCC still raised $40 million more.