House Dems shame stingy members

House Dems shame stingy members
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House Democratic leaders, less than a week before the midterm elections, are naming and shaming members for not hitting targets for donating money to their party.

In a conference call with the caucus on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump says he opposes mail-in voting for November On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans The bipartisan neutering of the Congressional Budget Office MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden offers to talk coronavirus response with Trump MORE (N.Y.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), urged rank-and-file members to dig deeper into their war chests for the sake of defending their most threatened colleagues.

The DCCC let it be known that only 77 of 199 House Democrats — 39 percent — are on target to meet their expected level of giving for the election cycle by the end of the month.

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And while a number of those lawmakers are vulnerable incumbents who aren’t expected to sacrifice their own funds for the party as a whole, a number of others are being tightfisted from the comfort of safe seats.

The House Democrats’ actions appear to be early evidence of finger-pointing and blame-shifting as the party faces increasing danger of losing seats and empowering the Republicans with a majority not seen since the Truman administration.

A DCCC memo previewing the call warned members that outside conservative groups would be pouring money into the most competitive districts down the final stretch toward Tuesday’s midterms. In the face of that spending, party leaders argue, the largesse of individual members is vital if Democrats are to have a chance at the polls.

“We knew this outside money was coming and we prepared,” the memo said. “But the fact is, this climate is incredibly challenging and only getting harder. Now we need to bring these races home on Election Day and your generosity is more important than ever.”

Democratic leaders emphasized that the vast majority of members have contributed to the DCCC this cycle, leading to a roughly $27 million haul that’s surpassed the party’s own initial goals.

Still, fewer than half of them have paid their dues in full.

The reasons vary from lawmaker to lawmaker. Some simply don’t have the cash on hand, they say, while others are guarding funds to ward off potential challenges in the future. 

But there’s also a third group that wants to conserve funds for “a year where Dems are playing offense, not defense,” in the words of one Democratic aide.

Those Democrats essentially don’t want to throw bad money after bad; the trend reflects the tough political environment Democrats are facing. Public concern over the economy, conflicts overseas and the Ebola scare have sunk President Obama’s approval ratings to near-record lows and created fierce headwinds for Democratic candidates, especially in conservative-leaning districts where the president is particularly unpopular.

Indeed, of the 30 most vulnerable House incumbents, only eight are Republicans, according to a recent analysis by The District Policy Group, the lobbying arm of the Philadelphia-based law firm Drinker, Biddle and Reath.

Democratic leaders are quick to note that their outlook is much better than it was in 2010, when they lost 63 seats and handed the Speaker’s gavel to Republicans. 

“[N]ot a single Democratic incumbent is out of contention,” reads the DCCC memo. “This is a stark contrast from 2010 where many incumbents were already down and out despite our best efforts.”

Also in the party’s favor, the DCCC has far out-raised its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), over the cycle. In September, the DCCC hauled in $16.7 million, versus $11 million for the NRCC. For the cycle, Democrats have raised $163 million to the GOP’s $125 million. That’s an enormous discrepancy, especially considering that Republicans control 34 more House seats than Democrats.  

Still, because Democrats are defending more vulnerable members, they’ve also spent at a quicker clip, leaving the DCCC and the NRCC with roughly the same amount of cash on hand to start October: $34 million and $33 million, respectively.

A number of Democrats responded to Tuesday’s plea by immediately pledging to write checks. A source on the call said the tally of new commitments totaled almost $500,000, including a $100,000 pledge from Rep. Al Green (Texas) and $25,000 pledges from Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Jim Himes (Conn.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), Grace Napolitano (Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.) and Mike Thompson (Calif.). 

It remains to be seen, however, if the new solicitation campaign arrives in time to affect any outcomes on Tuesday.

The Cook Political Report predicts Republicans will pick up between four and 10 seats, while the Rothenberg Political Report puts the number of GOP pickups between two and 10.

Stuart Rothenberg, the handicapper behind the Rothenberg Political Report, said this week that, while a GOP wave next month is unlikely, it’s also not impossible. 

“Republican gains of eight or 10 seats certainly would not qualify as a wave, no matter which Democratic seats fell,” Rothenberg wrote Tuesday. “But if the Republican gains get into the low to mid-teens (not likely but far from impossible), and if a handful of longer-shot GOP challengers were to win ... that would be clear evidence that a Republican wave had hit.”