A GOP sen­a­to­rial short­fall

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

“Time is run­ning out,” a se­nior Repub­li­can aide re­cently told re­porter Charles Hurt of The Wash­ing­ton Times. “Peo­ple will not want to look back [af­ter the elec­tion] and won­der what more could have been done. That would be a real shame.”

The Repub­li­can aide was re­fer­ring to the mil­lions of dol­lars that are slosh­ing around in the cam­paign cof­fers of many Repub­li­can sen­a­tors. Sev­eral will coast to re-elec­tion vic­tory on Nov. 7 (in­clud­ing Sens. Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son of Texas, who had $9.5 mil­lion in cash on hand as of Sept. 30; Or­rin Hatch of Utah, $2.9 mil­lion; Richard Lu­gar of In­di­ana, $2.9 mil­lion; and Olympia Snowe of Maine, $1.3 mil­lion). Other Repub­li­can sen­a­tors with over­flow­ing bank ac­counts won’t even face vot­ers this year, in­clud­ing Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, who had $11.6 mil­lion in the bank on Sept. 30; John Cornyn of Texas, $2.8 mil­lion; Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, $2.3 mil­lion; Charles Grass­ley of Iowa, $2 mil­lion; and Norm Cole­man of Min­nesota, $1.8 mil­lion.

Cam­paign-fi­nance laws per­mit sena- tors to do­nate un­lim­ited sums from their own cam­paign ac­counts to the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee (NRSC), which op­er­ates as the party’s na­tion­wide Se­nate re-elec­tion com­mit­tee. The NRSC can then spend th­ese funds in un­lim­ited amounts to fi­nance in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­tures sup­port­ing Repub­li­can can­di­dates in tough con­tests. The NRSC needs th­ese funds. Amid the fi­nan­cial splen­dor en­joyed by nu­mer­ous Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, the smaller bank ac­count of the NRSC is rapidly de­plet­ing as a hand­ful of en­dan­gered Repub­li­can sen­a­tors en­dure the re­lent­less on­slaught of the much-bet­ter-fi­nanced Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee (DSCC).

Un­der the lead­er­ship of New York’s se­nior sen­a­tor, Chuck Schumer, the DSCC had raised $94.9 mil­lion through Septem­ber. By con­trast, the NRSC, which is chaired by North Carolina fresh­man Sen. El­iz­a­beth Dole, had raised only $74.4 mil­lion. As of the end of Septem­ber, the DSCC had $23.1 mil­lion in the bank, nearly dou­ble the $12.1 mil­lion in cash on hand at the NRSC.

As Mr. Hurt re­ported, one rea­son the DSCC had raised $20 mil­lion more than the NRSC is be­cause Demo­cratic sen­a­tors have been far more gen­er­ous to their party’s na­tional fund-rais­ing com­mit­tee for Se­nate can­di­dates than Repub­li­can sen­a­tors have been. For ex­am­ple, New York’s ju­nior sen­a­tor, Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, who has raised $49 mil­lion for her 2006 re-elec­tion cam­paign against an op­po­nent with less than 10 per­cent of that amount, has given the DSCC $2.1 mil­lion. (Mrs. Clin­ton could have af­forded to give much more, of course, but then she would en­ter the post-Novem­ber pres­i­den­tial sweep­stakes with a smaller bank ac­count.)

On the Repub­li­can side, only Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Whip Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky has do­nated $1 mil­lion to his party’s re-elec­tion com­mit­tee.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans, who, by virtue of their ma­jor­ity (al­beit in­creas­ingly ten­u­ous and en­dan­gered), now con­trol 100 per­cent of the cham­ber’s com­mit­tee and sub­com­mit­tee chair­man­ships, could wake up Nov. 8 ad­dress­ing their cau­cus col­leagues as “Mr. Rank­ing Mem­ber” or “Madame Rank­ing Mem­ber.” That just doesn’t seem to have the ring — or the power — of “Mr. Chair­man.”

If Repub­li­can sen­a­tors want to know how it will feel to have to ask “What if?” on Nov. 8, they should con­sult their po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. Democrats are still try­ing to fig­ure out why Sen. John Kerry fin­ished the 2004 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign with more than $12 mil­lion in his pre­con­ven­tion bank ac­count. Mr. Kerry could have trans­ferred all that money to Ohio, where a re­ver­sal of a bit more than 1 per­cent (fewer than 60,000 votes) of the 5.6 mil­lion bal­lots cast two years ago would have handed him the pres­i­dency (in­clud­ing at least one and prob­a­bly two or more Supreme Court nom­i­na­tions) and handed the Demo­cratic Party the en­tire ex­ec­u­tive branch.

Democrats may also be ask­ing “What if?” on Nov. 8 should Repub­li­cans hold on to the Se­nate: “What if Mrs. Clin­ton’s gen­eros­ity were truly pro­por­tion­ate to her bank ac­count, which ex­ceeded $15 mil­lion on Sept. 30? And what if Mr. Kerry fi­nally spent the $8.4 mil­lion that re­mains in his 2004 pres­i­den­tial ac­count?”

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