Democrats’ strong boxes

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Novem­ber’s con­gres­sional elec­tions, which in­stalled Democrats in con­trol of both the House and the Se­nate, have caused ma­jor re­ver­ber­a­tions for the House and Se­nate fund-rais­ing com­mit­tees of each party. The Demo­cratic com­mit­tees have have achieved amaz­ing hard-money fund-rais­ing ad­van­tages dur­ing the first six months of 2007. To­day we will re­view how things have changed on the Se­nate side.

This once-un­think­able de­vel­op­ment is all the more sur­pris­ing in a po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment in which the un­lim­ited, un­reg­u­lated “soft-money” con­tri­bu­tions to party com­mit­tees from cor­po­ra­tions, unions and wealthy in­di­vid­u­als have been banned since the 2002 elec­tions. For years, the Demo­cratic fund-rais­ing com­mit­tees were much more de­pen­dent upon soft money than their GOP coun­ter­parts. Since the 2002 elec­tions, how­ever, the party com­mit­tees have been per­mit­ted to re­ceive only hard-money con­tri­bu­tions, which are strictly reg­u­lated and lim­ited and which Democrats pre­vi­ously had much more dif­fi­culty rais­ing than Repub­li­can com­mit­tees. It is true that the Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee (DSCC), which raises money on be­half of Demo­cratic in­cum­bents and chal­lengers com­pet­ing in Se­nate elec­tions, adapted more eas­ily to the post­soft-money world than its sis­ter com­mit­tee in the House, the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. Dur­ing the first six months of 2007, the DSCC clob­bered its Repub­li­can coun­ter­part, the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee (NRSC), in the bat­tle to raise hard money.

Dur­ing the 1999-2000 and 2001-02 cy­cles, the NRSC raised $111 mil­lion in hard money, $22 mil­lion (25 per­cent) more than the DSCC’s $89 mil­lion. Over the same four-year pe­riod, the DSCC raised $159 mil­lion in soft money, $48 mil­lion (43 per­cent) more than the NRSC’s four-year soft-money to­tal of $111 mil­lion. Dur­ing the first six months of 2003, af­ter soft money had been banned, the NRSC raised $14.6 mil­lion in hard money com­pared to the DSCC’s $10.8 mil­lion. On June 30, 2003, the NRSC had $5.3 mil­lion in cash on hand and zero debt. The DSCC had $2.5 mil­lion in cash and $3.9 mil­lion in debt, gen­er­at­ing a “free-cash” po­si­tion of neg­a­tive $1.4 mil­lion. Dur­ing the first six months of 2005, the NRSC and DSCC had raised $20.9 mil­lion and $22.7 mil­lion, re­spec­tively, and each com­mit­tee had be­tween $8 and $9 mil­lion in free cash on June 30, 2005.

On Dec. 31, 2006, af­ter Democrats had de­feated six in­cum­bent Repub­li­can sen­a­tors and cap­tured con­trol of the Se­nate, the vic­to­ri­ous DSCC had $63,369 in cash and $6.6 mil­lion in debt. The debt the DSCC so wisely in­curred had clearly gen­er­ated ex­tra­or­di­nary po­lit­i­cal div­i­dends. At the end of last year, the van­quished NRSC had $110,000 in cash and $1.3 mil­lion in debt. One won­ders if an­other $5 mil­lion in debt would have saved the Se­nate for the Repub­li­cans. It is ar­guable that $5 mil­lion di­vided equally be­tween the nar­rowly de­cided Se­nate races in Vir­ginia (49.6-49.2) and Mon­tana (49.2-48.3) would have saved one of the Repub­li­can seats, thus pre­vent­ing De- mocrats from achiev­ing their ma­jor­ity.

Here’s how Democrats have bril­liantly ex­ploited their nar­row Se­nate ma­jor­ity. Dur­ing the first six months of 2007, the DSCC raised a stun­ning $31.2 mil­lion, which was nearly three times the amount it had raised dur­ing the first six months of 2003 and 40 per­cent more than it had raised dur­ing the first six months of 2005. Both ear­lier pe­ri­ods co­in­cided with Demo­cratic mi­nor­ity sta­tus in the Se­nate. On June 30, 2007, the DSCC had $20.4 mil­lion in cash and $4.5 mil­lion in debt, gen­er­at­ing a free-cash po­si­tion of $15.9 mil­lion. The mi­nor­ity-party NRSC, which must de­fend 22 of the 34 Se­nate seats in play in 2008, raised only $15.8 mil­lion (half of the DSCC to­tal) dur­ing the first six months of this year. On June 30, the NRSC had $5.8 mil­lion in cash and zero debt. Thus, the DSCC had a $10.1 mil­lion free-cash ad­van­tage on June 30.

It’s fair to say that the DSCC, which even­tu­ally out­raised the NRSC by $32.6 mil­lion (37 per­cent) dur­ing the 2005-06 cy­cle while Democrats were in the mi­nor­ity, has barely revved up its en­gines.

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