- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2007

The fund-raising achievements and the financial positions of the two national party committees in charge of collecting and spending money on behalf of House candidates have undergone major reversals since the Democrats seized control of the U.S. House of Representatives in last year’s elections. During the first six months of 2007, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $36.4 million, nearly $7 million more than the $29.5 million raised by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). On June 30, the DCCC had $19.5 million in cash on hand and debts of $4.1 million, leaving a “free-cash” position (cash-on-hand minus debt) of $15.4 million at midyear. By contrast, the NRCC had only $2 million in cash on June 30 and $4.3 million in debt. Thus, the NRCC’s free-cash position was a negative $2.3 million, a situation the NRCC had not encountered since mid-1993, the last time Republicans were the minority party in the House.

How the two committees arrived at their current situations can be traced to the endgame of last year’s ferocious campaign for control of the House. Financial reports filed with the FEC reveal that the NRCC took out $8 million in loans during the last three weeks of the 2006 campaign. Over the same period, the DCCC took out $11.5 million in loans. The Democrats gained 31 seats and achieved a 31-seat (233-202) majority, putting them in a position to end the year with fewer debts than Republicans had. While the DCCC ended 2006 with less than $1 million in the bank and $9.3 million in debts, the NRCC had $1.4 million in cash and $14.4 million in debts.

Even worse for the NRCC, Republicans entered 2007 with supporters who haven’t been nearly as forthcoming with contributions during the first six months of this year as they were after the 2002 and 2004 Republican victories. Indeed, compared to the $29.5 million the NRCC raised during the first six months of 2007, it had raised $45.5 million during the first six months of 2003 and $40 million during the first six months of 2005. Compared to the $2 million in cash and $4.3 million in debts the NRCC had on June 30, 2007, it had $16.4 million in cash and zero debts on June 30, 2005. By contrast, on June 30, 2005, the DCCC had $8.5 million in cash and $3.7 million in debt, leaving a free-cash position of $4.9 million, which was $11.5 million less than the NRCC’s on June 30, 2005. After Republicans gained three House seats in the 2004 elections, the DCCC finished that year with $1.7 million in cash and $11.2 million in debts, while the NRCC finished 2004 with $3.2 million in cash and $40,000 in debts.

Over the 2003-07 period, as January-June NRCC total receipts have declined from $45.5 million (2003) to $40 million (2005) to $29.5 million (2007), January-June DCCC fund-raising totals have jumped from $14.5 million (2003) to $24.1 million (2005) to $36.4 million (2007). Thus, over a period of only four years, the NRCC’s $31 million January-June 2003 advantage has evolved into a DCCC fund-raising advantage of $6.9 million for the January-June 2007 period.

As dramatic as the DCCC’s relative improvement has been during the first six months of the last three election cycles, the committee also made fund-raising progress over the three previous two-year cycles. Before the McCain-Feingold law banned national party committees from accepting soft money (unregulated, unlimited contributions from business, labor and wealthy individuals) following the 2002 elections, the NRCC achieved only a 23 percent soft-money advantage ($69.7 million vs. $56.5 million) over the DCCC in the 2001-02 cycle. But during the same period, the NRCC achieved a 166 percent hard-money (regulated, limited contributions) advantage over the DCCC ($123.6 million vs. $46.4 million). During the 2003-2004 cycle, as the DCCC’s hard money increased by more than 100 percent (from $46.4 million to $93.2 million), the NRCC’s hard-money advantage declined to 99 percent ($185.7 million vs. $93.2 million) — although its absolute advantage increased to more than $90 million. During the 2005-06 cycle, the DCCC’s hard-money receipts increased by 50 percent to $139.9 million, while the NRCC’s receipts actually fell by 3 percent to $179.5 million, reducing the NRCC’s advantage from $92.5 million (2003-04) to less than $40 million (2005-06), or 28 percent.

If the first six months of 2007 are a useful guide, House Republicans face very, very big trouble in 2008.