Ocasio-Cortez defends decision not to pay dues to House Democratic campaign arm

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezImpeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators Sanders says it's 'disappointing' he's not on campaign trail in Iowa The Hill's Campaign Report: Ten days to Iowa MORE (D-N.Y.) on Friday defended her decision not to pay dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), saying she would instead seek to funnel money directly to Democrats in tough races.

Asked by The Hill if she intended to pay dues to the House Democratic campaign arm this cycle, Ocasio-Cortez replied, "I don't think so."

Ocasio-Cortez, whose unexpected win in a 2018 primary against longtime incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) propelled her to political stardom in progressive circles, has emerged as one of the Democratic Party’s most prolific fundraisers in the House.

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In the third quarter of 2019, she raised more money than any other House Democrat, including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Social Security emerges as flash point in Biden-Sanders fight | Dems urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency | Trump to sign USMCA next week Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (D-Calif.). Her most recent federal filing shows that she raked in more than $1.4 million between July 1 and Sept. 30.

Ocasio-Cortez has spoken critically of the DCCC in the past, particularly after it began sidelining vendors who work with candidates seeking to challenge incumbent Democrats in primaries.

She said that instead of paying the DCCC dues — about $250,000 for the 2019-2020 election cycle — she would seek to give directly to Democratic candidates.

"We are trying to raise the equivalent of my dues directly to other members," Ocasio-Cortez told The Hill. She said the money she has raised has so far gone to backing House Democrats, as well as nonincumbent candidates.

A spokesperson for the DCCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Fox News reported Friday that Ocasio-Cortez’s plan to withhold dues had rankled some congressional Democrats who worried the move could hurt the party’s efforts to keep control of the House.

“Sometimes the question comes: 'Do you want to be in a majority or do you want to be in the minority?' ” Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksOcasio-Cortez defends decision not to pay dues to House Democratic campaign arm Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash House Democrats urge financial regulators to defend against Iranian cyberattacks MORE (D-N.Y.) told Fox News. “And do you want to be part of a team?"

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who is facing a primary challenge from a progressive Democrat backed by Ocasio-Cortez, expressed frustration over what he described as efforts to “purify” the Democratic Caucus by ousting members who aren't part of the party’s progressive wing.

“To have people try to purify the caucus because they don't agree with them — 100 percent, I certainly don't agree with that,” he told Fox News. “Hopefully, we will start to get away from this circular firing squad.”

Despite Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to not pay dues, the DCCC isn’t hurting for money. Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea Bustos Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats House Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts MORE (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the DCCC, announced Thursday that the group had raised $14.4 million in December, its best fundraising month in 2019.

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Ocasio-Cortez told Fox News that she still backed some of her colleagues in their reelection bids, but noted that she was also willing to break with certain members of her party.

“I’m happy to support some incumbents, but it’s not just a blanket rule,” she said.

Cristina Marcos contributed.