In­debted Democrats com­pete with Obama for donors

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY KEL­LAN HOW­ELL

Barely more than a year be­fore the 2014 midterm elec­tions, the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee is strug­gling to pay off debt and re­build its war chest while com­pet­ing for do­na­tions with Or­ga­niz­ing for Amer­ica, the Web-based po­lit­i­cal group cre­ated from the rem­nants of Pres­i­dent Obama’s re-elec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Since the 2012 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, which cost al­most $7 bil­lion and was the most ex­pen­sive in his­tory, the DNC has been strug­gling with a debt load that stands at more than $18 mil­lion.

The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, mean­while, has no debt and about $13 mil­lion cash on hand. On vir­tu­ally ev­ery ma­jor bench­mark — cash on hand, debt and money raised to date — the RNC is out­per­form­ing the DNC.

DNC press sec­re­tary Michael Czin said re­sults of the 2012 elec­tion, which kept Democrats in con­trol of the White House and the Se­nate, were worth the red ink. “We’re proud of what we did last year and we would do it again. With the re­sult we had, we’d be crazy not to,” Mr. Czin said.

Some ob­servers, how­ever, are won­der­ing whether the DNC debt could hurt Democrats in the midterm elec­tion cam­paigns — par­tic­u­larly if the DNC is los­ing donors to Mr. Obama’s Or­ga­niz­ing for Amer­ica.

Many of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s most prom­i­nent donors — those who cut checks for six fig­ures or more — ne­glected to do­nate to the DNC this fundrais­ing cy­cle.

In fact, 15 of the top 24 donors to Or­ga­niz­ing for Amer­ica have not do­nated to the DNC since March or ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to records from the Center for Re­spon­sive Pol­i­tics.

Mr. Czin said there is no rivalry be­tween the two or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“We don’t com­pete with other groups; we have dis­tinct roles that com­ple­ment each other.”

For­mer Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion Chair­man Michael Toner dis­agrees.

“DNC fundrais­ing has been hurt by the OFA, there’s no ques­tion about it,” he said.

Mr. Toner said that if the trend per­sists and donors con­tinue to aban­don the DNC in or­der to bankroll Or­ga­niz­ing for Amer­ica, it could in­crease the group’s debt.

Kirk Dorn­bush, vice chair­man of the DNC Na­tional Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, said, “The mis­sions and func­tions of the DNC and OFA, while sep­a­rate and un­co­or­di­nated, are none­the­less com­ple­men­tary, not com­pet­i­tive. … It shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing th­ese donors get calls from all en­ti­ties, on both sides.”

Mr. Toner said the DNC’s best chance for re­cov­ery is help from Mr. Obama him­self. “Their sav­ing grace is hav­ing a sit­ting pres­i­dent and the abil­ity to have him host big fundrais­ers for them, that gives the DNC an op­por­tu­nity to pare In the early money chase for the 2014 midterm elec­tion cy­cle, the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee is out­pac­ing its Demo­cratic ri­val in key fi­nan­cial bench­marks. down its debt in the months ahead.”

This year, the pres­i­dent has hosted 15 fundrais­ing events for the DNC.

Mr. Czin said the DNC has re­newed its em­pha­sis on the fundrais­ing ef­fort.

“We’re re­tool­ing and build­ing our pro­grams to en­sure that Democrats are suc­cess­ful in 2013, 2014, 2016 and be­yond. We’ve put in place a top-notch team who are de­liv­er­ing real re­sults,” Mr. Czin said.

“This Mon­day was our sin­gle-best online fundrais­ing day since be­fore the 2012 elec­tion, bring­ing in over $850,000 in just 24 hours,” he said.

Mr. Dorn­bush said the DNC will erase its debt in time for the midterm elec­tions.

While the DNC is busy catch­ing up on its debt, the RNC is mak­ing fi­nan­cial strides to­ward the next elec­tion.

“Ev­ery day we are spend­ing money to win in 2013, 2014 and 2016 while the Democrats are pay­ing off debt and aren’t fo­cused on win­ning elec­tions,” said RNC press sec­re­tary Kirsten Kukowski. The RNC has made a fi­nan­cial come­back since 2011, when the com­mit­tee’s debt hit $24 mil­lion.

The DNC’s fi­nan­cial woes also could cut into the bud­gets of other Demo­cratic fundrais­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Demo­cratic Se­na­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee and the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee.

“The DNC’s fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties will place even greater fundrais­ing pres­sure on the DCCC and DSCC be­tween now and the midterm elec­tion. Given the DNC’s fundrais­ing strug­gles, it is un­likely that the DNC will be able to trans­fer sig­nif­i­cant funds to the DCCC and DSCC dur­ing this elec­tion cy­cle.”

Repub­li­cans said the DNC’s fi­nan­cial prob­lems should be seen as a re­flec­tion of the Democrats’ in­abil­ity to deal with the coun­try’s fis­cal cri­sis.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to see how Democrats can have a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion about how our coun­try pays its bills when they are car­ry­ing mil­lions of their own debt,” Ms. Kukowski said. “Its hard to be­lieve the DNC, with a Demo­cratic pres­i­dent who is known for his fundrais­ing prow­ess, is in this po­si­tion.”

The DNC’s debt has been de­creas­ing slowly since April, when it peaked at $22.5 mil­lion.

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