- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

House Republicans are being asked to ante up in order to protect their majority.
Under a plan dubbed "Battleground 2002," Republican Party officials are asking their congressional members to contribute money to a central pool, which will be used to help vulnerable incumbents and strong candidates running for open seats or against likely Democratic incumbent targets.
"Our goal is to raise $16 million in hard money from the members," said Rep. Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican who is chief deputy whip and is the favorite to become whip if the party keeps control of the House. Mr. Blunt will serve as chairman of the effort, along with Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.
Republicans tried something similar in 2000, and Mr. Blunt said they exceeded their target of $16 million that year.
Mr. Blunt said the money will go to anything a particular candidate needs.
"What our members don't want to do, and what we won't do, is try to nationalize our effort," Mr. Blunt said. "We want this to be an effort where we look at every individual campaign and do what they need."
A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the effort shows Republicans are concerned about their prospects of holding the House, which they control by a margin of six seats.
"Republicans must be worried about the fact that a number of our candidates are outraising their candidates," said Kim Rubey, the spokeswoman. She said Democrats have been very helpful on behalf of the DCCC in raising money this year.
The plan to target money at critical districts goes hand in hand with another effort House Republicans are spearheading to shift manpower from safe districts to competitive races in the days leading up to an election.
Mr. Blunt said party members have already contributed more than $1 million to the fund, including $100,000 from Reps. Jennifer Dunn of Washington, Thomas M. Reynolds of New York and Jerry Weller from Illinois; $150,000 from Rep. Philip M. Crane from Illinois; and $200,000 from Rep. Thomas M. Davis III from Virginia, who is also chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Mr. Blunt said he and Rep. Christopher Cox from California gave $250,000 each.
In terms of targets, Mr. Blunt was asking for the top three Republicans Mr. Hastert and Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, both of Texas to give $700,000 each. Mr. Davis asked to be bumped up to that level.
The bidding is getting somewhat competitive. Mr. Blunt asked top committee chairmen to give $300,000 each, but Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas from California said he would give $500,000, and challenged the other top chairmen to match him. Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin from Louisiana said he'll match Mr. Thomas.


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