An equal-opportunity fundraiser, Schumer will ‘ask money of anyone’

Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden's Supreme Court commission ends not with a bang but a whimper Hispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act MORE’s the only guy who can be given a $25,000 check and say, ‘You can do a little better than that.’ ”

Many political donors, including the Democratic insider who laughed as he offered this anecdote, have a fundraising story about the senior senator from New York.


One Republican lobbyist said Schumer called him a couple times during the 2006 cycle — when Democrats were in the minority — and completed the sale on the second call. Yet, Schumer didn’t accept the “check will be in the mail” line, requesting the lobbyist have it delivered by courier instead.

“Chuck’s an equal-opportunity fundraiser,” said Julie Domenick, a lobbyist and big Democratic donor. “He’ll ask money of anyone.”

One of Schumer’s fundraising strategies is to strongly urge Democratic players in Washington to find him “new people,” referring to new donors.

When the names of those donors are provided, Schumer claims ownership of them and asks for more “new people.”

Former Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.), a lobbyist at Downey McGrath, said, “I don’t think there’s anyone better. He’s got a formula.”

Schumer usually starts his fundraising calls with pleasantries. After that, his tone grows sharper.

Gerald Cassidy, a large Democratic donor who heads the firm Cassidy and Associates, said, “I always give on the first call, because if you get a second one, it’s worse.”

Lawmakers regularly complain about how much time they must commit to raising money. Not Schumer.

In his book Positively American, Schumer wrote, “I love campaigns and I don’t mind calling donors for money.”

That is an understatement.

Schumer has helped raise $235 million for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the last four years, according to CQMoneyLine. When he took over, Senate Democrats had 45 seats. Next year, they could have 60.

Clearly, the Democrats’ political momentum is the result of more than Schumer’s ability to raise millions. But his fundraising prowess and recruiting skills have played a major role in expanding Democratic seats in the Senate.

As Schumer was raising more in 2006 than his counterpart, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), critics ripped the then-National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairwoman. Schumer bested Dole by winning six seats and the majority of the upper chamber. Two years later, Schumer is working to end Dole’s political career by helping her challenger, state Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE, who is leading in recent polls.

A larger scalp would be ousting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHoyer signals House vote on bill to 'remove' debt limit threat Biden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan MORE (R-Ky.), which would be seen as revenge for then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) defeat four years ago. Two years ago, few thought McConnell would now be scrambling to save his seat.

{mospagebreak}Schumer is regarded as a Keyser Soze figure to some Republicans — the villain from 1995 film “The Usual Suspects” who tends to operate in the shadows — except the mystery of the media-friendly lawyer lies not in who he is, but how he does it.

When Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) ruled out running the NRSC beyond this year, he noted that running a campaign committee is extremely arduous, adding that he could not believe Schumer agreed to successive stints at the DSCC.

The second-term senator, who is up for reelection in 2010, has not ruled out running DSCC a third straight cycle, though sources say it is unlikely.


Schumer’s New York connections have benefited the DSCC. He has convinced many players on Wall Street to pony up, but a review of the committee’s donors shows a wide range of Democrats have been cutting checks.

Hollywood has pitched in to DSCC coffers. Actor Matt Damon donated $28,500. Susan Sarandon and Carl Reiner have also donated to Schumer’s committee.

But so has Robert Oppenheimer, a taxi driver in Albany, Calif., and Robert Bruno, a U.S. Marshals Service inspector in Louisiana.

Part of the formula is to be “relentless,” as lobbyist Tom Quinn says.

In an interview with The Hill earlier this year, Schumer said he doesn’t require much sleep, needing five or six hours a night.

“He never stops,” DSCC donor Fred Graefe said. “He’s like the Energizer Bunny.”

Publicly, Schumer praises Democratic senators for their generosity to the DSCC. Privately, he leans on them hard to meet their quotas. Meanwhile, Ensign has expressed exasperation with the stinginess of his colleagues.

Downey, who served in the House with Schumer, said that one of Schumer’s attributes is that he “will go Old Testament” when necessary.

In a rare move for any politician, Schumer last month publicly criticized the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, claiming it “has turned into a wing” of the GOP.

“He is very direct,” Downey said.

Some Republicans expressed optimism about 2008 after the 2006 wave, confident that Democrats would blow their majorities quickly.

Schumer, who will turn 58 the week of Thanksgiving, had a different vision. In his book, he wrote, “If we seize the opportunity over the next 24 months … on Thanksgiving 2008, the sweet potato pie will taste even sweeter than it does today.”