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Dem leadership hopefuls dole out millions in campaign cash

Dem leadership hopefuls dole out millions in campaign cash

House Democrats vying to climb the leadership ladder are showering millions of dollars in campaign cash on colleagues and candidates heading into the midterms — a crucial step in solidifying support within the caucus ahead of what’s likely to be a wild, post-election leadership scramble.

Five of the six Democrats who’ve announced bids for undercard leadership seats in the next Congress have each spread well over $1 million across other campaigns, with the bulk of that being funneled directly to vulnerable incumbents and first-time candidates hoping to flip GOP seats in the most hotly contested battleground districts.

The trend reflects Democrats’ optimism that they can seize the House; the largesse of party donors energized by the divisive leadership of President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident MORE; and the importance, among more ambitious members, of sharing their bounty for the sake of securing the House majority — and boosting their case when it comes time for leadership elections.

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The Hill analyzed the latest fundraising numbers from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), with a special focus on the up-and-coming lawmakers who have announced candidacies for three leadership posts next year: assistant leader, currently held by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.); caucus chairman, now held by outgoing-Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), who lost his primary in June; and caucus vice-chair, which will open up next year when Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) seeks to move up the chain.

Perhaps the biggest surprise surrounds the money leader within that candidate pool: Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkPelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated MORE (D-Mass.), who’s vying to replace Sánchez for the vice-chairmanship spot, has given more than $3.3 million in an effort to elect Democrats this cycle, according the the latest DCCC report, obtained by The Hill.

The figure reflects a combination of money raised directly for the DCCC; dues paid to the DCCC; and funds raised for both “frontline” Democrats — the incumbents deemed most vulnerable — and so-called “red-to-blue” candidates, who are running tightly contested races in districts held by Republicans. The DCCC lists 92 candidates in the red-to-blue category.

The dollar amounts represent transactions through Sept. 30 and are not a full accounting of the Democrats’ fundraising, nor do they reflect all donations to other campaigns. Money raised for the lawmakers’ individual campaign committees and leadership PACs, for instance, are largely excluded — unless those funds are later shifted to the DCCC or campaigns featuring either frontline incumbents or red-to-blue candidates.

Still, the numbers provide a good snapshot of who’s driving hardest to influence the election outcomes by focusing most sharply on vulnerable incumbents and battleground candidates. The DCCC report is also relevant for the simple reason that it’s the document being watched by party leaders and distributed to all members of the caucus.

Clark noted that the Democrats’ ambitious legislative plans will be largely irrelevant if the House remains in GOP hands.

"I have spent the last year-and-a-half recruiting, fundraising, mentoring and traveling in support of our frontline and Red to Blue candidates because American families need a fair shot,” she said, “and that won’t happen unless Democrats take back the majority in Congress."

Clark is facing at least one opponent in the vice chairman contest, Rep. Peter Aguilar (D-Calif.), who has given almost $1.6 million to the DCCC and Democratic candidates in the toughest districts. Like Clark, he says flipping the House is the “top priority.”

“We have an incredibly diverse and talented pool of candidates across the country who want to enact an agenda that works for the American people,” he said, “which is why I’m working to make sure they have the resources they need to communicate their ideas and tell their stories to voters in their districts."

Two Democrats have announced bids to replace Clyburn as assistant leader: Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosHouse Republican campaign arm rolls out target list for midterms Lobbying world Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote MORE (Ill.) and David CicillineDavid CicillineDemocrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line This week: House to vote on Biden's .9 trillion coronavirus bill Biden urges swift passage of Equality Act MORE (R.I.), both of whom are leaders of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC). The seat is expected to open up only if the Democrats take control of the House, in which case Clyburn is expected to advance to a higher leadership post.

Between the two, Bustos has the money advantage in races that count, according to the report, raising more than $2.6 million for the DCCC and hardest-fought races, versus $1.6 million for Cicilline.

Denise Mousouris, Bustos’s campaign finance director, said the congresswoman’s strategy “is pretty straightforward.”

“She’s doing everything she can to help build a new Democratic majority,” Mousouris said in an email. “Cheri has met and exceeded all three of the goals the DCCC set for her in terms of paying dues, raising for the DCCC and giving to candidates.”

Crowley’s shocking primary defeat has created new leadership opportunities, and Sánchez and Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeHillicon Valley: Companies urge action at SolarWinds hearing | Facebook lifts Australian news ban | Biden to take action against Russia in 'weeks' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Tanden's odds plummet to lead OMB Biden, lawmakers mark John Lewis's 81st birthday: 'May we carry on his mission' MORE (D-Calif.) were quick to announce their intent to fill the void in the caucus chairman seat. Sánchez has a commanding fundraising lead, according to the DCCC numbers, raising more than $2.1 million for the committee and hotly contested races. Lee has given roughly $560,000 across the same categories.

“I don't want to wake up on Wednesday morning feeling like I could have done more,” Sánchez said in an email. “I am leaving it all out on the field."

The fundraising haul of those candidates pales relative to that of the top three Democratic leaders — Reps. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings Curator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line MORE (Calif.), Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHoyer: House will vote on COVID-19 relief bill Friday On The Money: Biden faces backlash from left on student loans | Where things stand on the COVID-19 relief measure | Retail sales rebound The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden navigates pressures from Dems MORE (Md.) and Clyburn — who are national figures, each with more than a decade of leadership and fundraising expertise.

Pelosi, in particular, is a fundraising juggernaut, disbursing more than $121 million to the DCCC and battleground candidates this cycle, according to the report, while Hoyer has raised $8.3 million in those categories, and Clyburn $6.7 million.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), the DCCC chairman, has hauled in almost $50 million, the report indicates. Luján has not announced any leadership plans for next year, but is thought to be eyeing a higher rung of the ladder, particularly if the House flips.

Luján is not alone. Other Democrats have also floated their names as potential leadership candidates, but are waiting to see the outcome of the Nov. 6 midterm elections before making a leap.

Among the lawmakers thought to be eyeing leadership bids, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBiden administration open to restarting nuclear talks with Iran Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward House Democrats renew push for checks on presidential pardons MORE (Calif.) has raised almost $6 million for the DCCC and contested races; Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesHouse panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps COVID-19 could complicate Pelosi's path to Speaker next year Democrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins MORE (Conn.) has brought in roughly $2.8 million; and Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesPelosi, lawmakers denounce violence against Asian Americans House Democrat says adopting GOP relief proposal would be 'unconditional surrender' House votes to kick Greene off committees over embrace of conspiracy theories MORE (N.Y.), another co-chairman of the DPCC, has tallied almost $1.9 million.

Jeffries, said campaign spokeswoman Cathy Toren, is “all hands on deck” with a singular purpose: “to win back the majority and save our democracy.”