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Departing lawmakers clutch cash

Democratic leaders are pushing departing lawmakers to turn over their war chests to help the party retain control of Congress, but in some cases are getting a stiff-arm.


Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who is retiring at the end of the year, reported earlier this month having an eye-popping $10.8 million on hand. But he has given only $15,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) to keep his seat in Democratic hands, according to his fundraising reports.

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Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who lost his primary race in March, still had $2.7 million as of June 30, a report showed. He also has given just $15,000 to the party’s Senate fundraising committee.

Another retiring Democrat, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), likewise had donated $15,000 to the party committee through the end of June, despite having nearly $1 million left in his campaign account.

DSCC Chairman Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezTrump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it Blame Senate, not FBI, for Kavanaugh travesty Dems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints MORE (N.J.) said he has asked all colleagues who aren’t facing reelection this year to give generously.

 “We talk to everybody who is not in cycle to consider contributing to the committee, and we’ve had pretty good response across the board,” said Menendez.

For instance, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, gave $240,000 to the Democratic senatorial committee since the beginning of last year.

Menendez declined to discuss his conversations with Bayh.

“It’s up to Sen. Bayh what he does with his money,” said Menendez.

A spokesman for Bayh noted the senator has helped in other ways, giving $1 million to the Indiana Democratic Party in March.

“Sen. Bayh has an open mind but hasn’t made any final decisions on what to do with the remainder of his campaign account,” his spokesman said in a statement.  “Sen. Bayh has also always been a generous supporter of the DSCC and Democratic Senate candidates for the entire time he has been in the Senate.”

Specter said he could not give the money to the party because he had raised it for a general-election match-up against former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and federal law required him to refund the donations by mid-July.

 “I think it’s all gone,” he said. “The law requires that it has to be paid back within 60 days.”

A spokesman for Dodd, Bryan DeAngelis, said, “No one is more committed to maintaining and expanding the Democratic majorities than Chris Dodd. The campaign still has obligations to fulfill, but Chris Dodd will continue to do all he can to support the DSCC.”

Menendez said he has not attempted to tap into the $4.1 million war chest that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) left when he died last year.

 “I have pursued members who are not in cycle and asked all of them to contribute and all of them have, in some shape or form, and some have been more generous than others,” said Menendez. “They’ve all pitched in and so we will continue to ask them.”

Democratic senators traditionally give substantially more of their personal funds to the party fundraising committee than do Republicans. Senators also tend to increase their giving as Election Day approaches. So Bayh, Dodd and others who do not have races could make generous gifts to the DSCC in the coming months.

But lawmakers could also keep the money and eventually transfer it to a political action committee that could be used to fund a future campaign — as well as donate to other candidates they hope will back it. Bayh is considered a possible White House contender down the road.

Some retiring Democrats have already given generously.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who reported $2.1 million in cash on hand at the beginning of July, has given $370,000 to the DSCC.

Departing House Democrats are also sitting on hefty campaign accounts, and the leadership is asking them to pony up.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) has approached outgoing Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) about the $790,000 in his campaign fund.

But Delahunt said there are competing political interests that need the money, and he’ll decide how to spend it when the time is right.

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“He asked me and I’ve explained there are competing interests,” he said.

“There are different parties,” he said. “There are state parties, town parties and national parties.”

Delahunt noted that Republicans, energized by Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) surprise victory earlier this year, have targeted his seat and said he would stay active and deploy his resources to ensure that his seat remains Democratic.

Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) reported $1.19 million in his campaign account at the beginning of this month. Fundraising records show he gave the DCCC a $50,000 gift in January and $100,000 in March of last year.

Retiring Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) recently reported $899,000 in his war chest. He said he has already given well over $200,000 to the party and will decide what to do with the rest.

 “I’ll deal with it appropriately,” he said. 

Gordon said he would not give away the entire amount to keep the House in Democratic hands. He said some of the money would go to charity and he may need the rest for a future campaign.

“This may not be my last race,” he said, noting that the Tennessee Legislature may require that the offices of secretary of state and state attorney general be filled by statewide elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent out a fundraising appeal this week on behalf of the DCCC pointing to Democrats’ anxiety about the midterms and the money chase. She asked supporters for contributions to help prevent the “subpoenas and investigations” she said would be inevitable with a GOP majority.

Republicans, she said, would initiate “endless investigations against President Obama” and “bring back the days of Ken Starr and the politics of personal destruction.”