Betting on the Dems

Speculators betting on futures contracts in New York, London or Tokyo hope the price of their purchased assets will rise, providing a tidy profit.

This concept also works in politics, where contributors aim their thousand-dollar checks at the parties and candidates they believe will be in power — and in a position to provide help to them.

Right now, the future value of the Democratic Party is trading sky-high. Senate and House Democrats are far ahead of their GOP counterparts in raising funds, and the presidential campaigns of both Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) have been cash machines.

Investors are confident Democrats will retain power over Congress in 2009, and it could also be argued that they believe a Democrat will live in the White House.

Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) campaign bank account provides great evidence of the trend.

Rangel is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of Congress’s most powerful panels, and he has always been a noted fundraiser.

Still, the figures he has raised so far are staggering: nearly $5 million in contributions to his leadership committee and his own personal campaign. Much of the money is coming from corporate political action committees, which are embracing Rangel even though he was perceived as less friendly to their interests than his GOP predecessor at Ways and Means.

The reason, K Street lobbyists say, is that those writing the checks think Rangel will top Ways and Means at least through 2010. That post will give him an opportunity to influence legislation on taxes, trade and healthcare — issues critical to all Americans, including those leading multinational corporations. If the country also elects a Democratic president, Rangel will only have more power.

In an interview with The Hill last year, Rangel — a Clinton backer — said he’s not retiring anytime soon:

“I’ve been talking to Hillary Clinton. She said she’d need me for at least two years.”

Business is investing and cozying up to Rangel, a legislator with a long reputation as a Capitol Hill wheeler and dealer who has no interest in turning down the checks. Rangel, in turn, is transferring some of that money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is using the cash to help Democrats across the country.

Times are tough, meanwhile, for most of those working to raise money for Republicans.

The national House GOP committee had only $5.7 million on hand at the end of February and has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in an alleged scam run by its former treasurer. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, meanwhile, had collected less than half the money of its Democratic counterpart at the end of February.

Last week, The Hill reported GOP senators have given little or nothing to their cash-starved committee. This may reflect the conservative stream of the GOP’s senators. Neither conservative traders nor politicians want to throw good money at a commodity that might be worth less in a year.

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