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GOP fundraising for House seats lags

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The fundraising arm of House Republicans continues to fall behind its Democratic counterpart, as its cash reserves dwindled last month after an expensive special election in Illinois and an embezzlement scandal involving a former treasurer.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) reported $5.1 million in cash-on-hand through last month — about $1.3 million less than it started the month with, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), meanwhile, increased its available cash reserves $2.5 million last month for a total of more than $38 million. The DCCC has significantly outpaced the NRCC in fundraising since the Democrats regained control of the House last year after more than a decade in the minority, outraising Republicans 10-to-1 for much of 2007.

The NRCC cut their cash disadvantage almost in half at the end of last year, though its current financial woes have the committee now trailing the Democrats 7-to-1 in available cash.

"Grassroots support for House Democrats' agenda of change continues to grow stronger," said DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell, adding that his party isn't taking its massive fundraising advantage for granted in the rough-and-tumble environment of congressional politics.

"In this favorable political environment, we have more opportunities than we can currently afford," Mr. Thornell said.

NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said the Democrats "will need every dollar they can get their hands on" because "an abysmal record of tax hikes, runaway spending and broken borders doesn"t come cheap."

House Democrats also are bracing for attacks by Republican-leaning "527" independent-expenditure groups such as Freedom's Watch, which spent millions of dollars last year promoting conservative issues.

The NRCC's money woes deepened this month when it spent more than $1 million in a losing effort to keep the Illinois seat of former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who retired in November after more than two decades in Congress.

Democrat Bill Foster, a physicist and businessman, won 53 percent of the vote in the special election for Illinois' 14th Congressional District, defeating dairy owner Jim Oberweis, a Republican. The NRCC's contribution to Mr. Oberweis' campaign was about 20 percent of its available cash.

The NRCC also must contend with 29 Republican retirements from the House that have diminished the party's prospects of cutting into the Democrats 233-198 advantage in the House.

But House Republicans say most of the seats are in districts that have voted Republican in recent elections.

"Nearly every single open-seat contest will occur on Republican-leaning terrain in a presidential election year with [Arizona Sen.] John McCain at the top of the ticket," Mr. Spain said. "We are confident that we will be in a position to play offense in the fall."