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 John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ 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 ClarkHouse Dems rallying behind border deal with 55 miles of barriers Pelosi, Dem leaders urge Omar to apologize for 'anti-Semitic' tweet Trump, Dems have reasons to work together, but tensions are boiling over 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 BustosAssault weapons ban push tests Dem support House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 Progressives to target Dem reps in 2020 primary fights MORE (Ill.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineForeign Affairs chairman: US military intervention in Venezuela 'not an option' Greedy tort bar tarts up the CREATES Act Whitaker takes grilling from House lawmakers 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 LeeKamala Harris: 'I am not a democratic socialist' The 10 Dems most likely to win the 2020 presidential nomination Kamala Harris shopping trip stirs Twitter campaign trail debate 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump, Dems open drug price talks | FDA warns against infusing young people's blood | Facebook under scrutiny over health data | Harris says Medicare for all isn't socialism Dems think they're beating Trump in emergency declaration battle Steve King asks for Congressional Record correction over white supremacist quote MORE (Calif.), Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Dems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Winners and losers in the border security deal 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 SchiffWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' Schiff: 'Hard to imagine a poorer case' than Trump's on emergency declaration MORE (Calif.) has raised almost $6 million for the DCCC and contested races; Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesDem lawmaker on Omar tweet: Be careful about how you discuss sensitive issues Dems seize on Trump feud with intelligence leaders Meghan McCain on Ocasio-Cortez: She is 'just like Trump on Twitter' MORE (Conn.) has brought in roughly $2.8 million; and Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? Congress hits gas on border deal Trump: 'Shutdown would be a terrible thing' 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.”