Ros-Lehtinen lends a hand to vulnerable GOP incumbents

House Republican efforts to hold onto the majority have spawned several imitations of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) successful fundraising organization for vulnerable members, known as Retain Our Majority Program (ROMP).

Offshoots include: Challengers Helping Our Majority (CHOMP), Sophomores Retaining Our Majority (SHROMP) and Freshmen Retaining Our Majority (FROMP).

The latest has a distinctly feminine Latin flavor: Ladies Action to Retain Our Majority Program Again, or LA ROMPA.

Cuban-born Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is spearheading the late-in-the-cycle effort, which she bills as the first organized example of women GOP incumbents working exclusively to help vulnerable female GOP members.

The fundraiser will take place tonight at 6:30 p.m. at 324 Independence Avenue and is expected to rake in $250,000 for nine GOP women: Reps. Barbara Cubin (Wyo.), Thelma Drake (Va.), Nancy Johnson (Conn.), Sue Kelly (N.Y.), Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.), Anne Northup (Ky.), Deborah Pryce (Ohio), Jean Schmidt (Ohio) and Heather Wilson (N.M.)

Every female GOP senator has agreed to co-host the event, and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) and Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will be on hand tonight to support the cause.

“Now that the election is getting so close and a few of our women are endangered, this may be one of the last opportunities to do a full-blown event to help grow our majority,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

In previous years, Pryce, who chairs the GOP Conference, has held fundraising events and channeled money to promising women candidates and vulnerable female GOP members through her Value in Electing Women, or VIEWPAC. But this year, Pryce is locked in a tight race and is focusing her late campaign efforts on retaining her seat.

Johnson came up with the idea of organizing a ROMP take-off to benefit female GOP incumbents a number of years ago, Ros-Lehtinen said, but the two members never found the time to make it happen.

With less than two months before the election and the majority at stake, according to Art Estopinan, Ros-Lehtinen’s chief of staff, Hastert recently approached his boss to carry the idea out; he also has pledged $10,000 to the effort.

In addition to organizing duties, Ros-Lehtinen will kick in $18,000 to the program, just a small portion of the nearly $1 million she has raised for the NRCC or donated directly to other candidates to help keep a hold on the majority, Estopinan said.

Ros-Lehtinen is vying against four other members for the International Relations Committee gavel that will become available when Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) gives it up at the beginning of the new session of Congress, and active fundraising has become a staple in competitive chairmanship contests. Her contenders, in order of seniority, include: Reps. Jim Leach (Iowa), Chris Smith (N.J.), and Dan Burton (Ind.). Rep. Ed Royce (Calif.), who is less senior than Ros-Lehtinen, also recently entered the race.

Other ambitious lawmakers contributing to the LA ROMPA event include: Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas), who is running for Judiciary Committee chairman and has pledged $20,000, and Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) who wants to head the NRCC next cycle and has committed $12,500.

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