A skimpy bank balance at the Democratic National Committee has some party members nervously questioning Chairman Howard Dean’s fundraising and management skills as they prepare for midterm elections this year.
The DNC raised $51 million in 2005 but finished the year with just $5.5 million in the bank. The Republican National Committee raised twice as much during the same period, $102 million, and had $34 million on hand this month.
The sharp disparity in campaign funds between the parties’ two national campaign committees has triggered private complaints among House and Senate Democratic leaders about Mr. Dean’s expenditures, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reports.
DNC officials did not respond to the story, but a Democratic campaign aide said yesterday that questions have been raised in congressional leadership’s ranks over the way Mr. Dean has handled campaign money. The aide added, however, that much of the money raised last year was spent to bolster the party’s campaign apparatus in all 50 states.
Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor who for a time was the front-runner for his party’s 2004 presidential nomination, won the chairmanship last year by promising to plow more of the party’s resources into state campaign committees, particularly in red states that lean Republican, to help expand the party’s base and strengthen its political firepower.
The DNC says it has staffs in all 50 states. State party chairmen, whose staffs have been enlarged under Mr. Dean’s tenure, have sung his praises.
Officials in the Democrats’ House and Senate campaign committees, the chief source of national party campaign funds for its incumbents and challengers, said their fundraising has been breaking records.
“We feel great about how the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is doing. We raised more money than the DCCC has ever raised in an off-year before, a total of $42.7 million in 2005, and we had a total of $15.7 in cash on hand at the end of the year,” said Bill Burton, the DCCC’s communications director.
Meantime, some state party officials dismissed the DNC’s year-end campaign account, saying it was a temporary figure and that by Election Day, their candidates would receive the funding support they need from a variety of state and national committees.
“Our state has two or three competitive congressional districts, and they are going to be well-funded by the DCCC and local sources. We’ll be fine,” said Steve Brown, spokesman for the Illinois Democratic Party.
“It depends on how the money gets spent. I’ve seen years when Democrats had more money and came out behind and years when we had less money and came out ahead,” Mr. Brown said.