- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2006

With the midterm congressional elections a bit more than eight months away, the differences in the fund-raising activities of the national party committees contesting elections in both legislative chambers are beginning to become more salient. Some important trends can be identified.

In addition to the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, each party operates separate fund-raising/election committees for both the Senate and the House. By any standard, Chuck Schumer, the senior Democratic senator from New York who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), turned in a stellar performance. The DSCC raised $43.6 million in 2005 (91 percent higher than the its take in 2003). Despite the fact that the 55 Republican senators maintain a solid majority in the 100-member Senate, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which is chaired by North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, raised only $35.5 million in 2005. The NRSC spent about 75 percent of its receipts, while the DSCC spent only 43 percent. As a result, the DSCC entered 2006 with $25.3 million in the bank, and the Republicans had $10.5 million. It was during the second half of last year that Mr. Schumer expanded his cash-on-hand advantage from $900,000 at the end of June to $15 million by the end of the year. By the end of last month, the NRSC improved its cash position by $1 million, but still trailed the DSCC in “ready money” by about $14 million.

Over at the parties’ fund-raising committees for the House, the 2005 totals reflected which party was in power. But there were some ominous trends that could have an effect on an election in which Democrats need to gain only 15 seats to capture the majority in the House. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) raised $65 million last year, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $42.9 million. But the NRCC also spent $20 million more in 2005 than the DCCC spent, leaving the Republicans with a cash-on-hand advantage of only $4 million at year’s end. (In addition, the DCCC had debts totaling $1.9 million.)

During the 2003-04 cycle, the NRCC raised twice ($185.7 million) the amount collected by the DCCC ($93.2 million). That’s not likely to happen this cycle. Under Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the DCCC’s 2005 fund-raising total exceeded its 2003 total by more than $14 million ($42.9 million vs. $28.6 million). Meanwhile, under the direction of New York Rep. Thomas Reynolds, the NRCC actually raised 10 percent less money last year ($65 million) than it did in 2003 ($72.6 million). Thus, the 100 percent advantage enjoyed by the NRCC in 2003-04 was virtually halved in 2005. Following January’s fund-raising activity, the NRCC’s cash-on-hand advantage remained at $4 million, but the DCCC retired a third of its year-end debt last month.

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