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 TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates 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 ClarkDemocratic leaders seek balance amid liberal push to go big on immigration Katherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent Epstein charges put Trump Labor secretary back in spotlight 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 Democrats' campaign arm raises over million in second quarter Lawmakers join Nats Park fundraiser for DC kids charity Democratic leaders seek balance amid liberal push to go big on immigration MORE (Ill.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineSocial media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech FTC settles with Facebook for billion fine: report Democrats struggle to quell infighting 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 LeeTrump's tweets unify a fractured Democratic Party Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners 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 PelosiNYT's Friedman repeatedly says 's---hole' in tirade against Trump on CNN GOP lawmaker: Trump's tweets 'obviously not racist' On the USMCA, Pelosi can't take yes for an answer MORE (Calif.), Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: House Dems voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt House Democrats seek to move past rifts with minimum wage bill Progressive groups slam House Democratic leadership's 'escalating attacks' on progressives 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 SchiffTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify Mueller to give extended testimony after appearance postponed Mueller testimony likely to be delayed for one week MORE (Calif.) has raised almost $6 million for the DCCC and contested races; Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesForeign-born lawmaker: Trump's not going to tell me to 'go back to my country' Battle lines drawn for Mueller testimony Pro-impeachment Democrats say Mueller testimony could be 'turning point' MORE (Conn.) has brought in roughly $2.8 million; and Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesThis week: House Dems voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Trump doubles down after telling Democratic congresswomen to 'go back' to their countries Pressley: Democrats don't need 'any more black faces that don't want to be a black voice' 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.”