- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2006

“Time is running out,” a senior Republican aide recently told reporter Charles Hurt of The Washington Times. “People will not want to look back [after the election] and wonder what more could have been done. That would be a real shame.”

The Republican aide was referring to the millions of dollars that are sloshing around in the campaign coffers of many Republican senators. Several will coast to re-election victory next month (including Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who had $9.5 million in cash on hand as of Sept. 30; Orrin Hatch of Utah, $2.9 million; Richard Lugar of Indiana, $2.9 million; and Olympia Snowe of Maine, $1.3 million). Other Republican senators with overflowing bank accounts won’t even face voters this year, including Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, who had $11.6 million in the bank on Sept. 30; John Cornyn of Texas, $2.8 million; Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, $2.3 million; Charles Grassley of Iowa, $2 million; and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, $1.8 million.

Campaign-finance laws permit senators to donate unlimited sums from their own campaign accounts to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which operates as the party’s nationwide Senate re-election committee. The NRSC can then spend these funds in unlimited amounts to finance independent expenditures supporting Republican candidates in tough contests. The NRSC needs these funds. Amid the financial splendor enjoyed by numerous Republican senators, the smaller bank account of the NRSC is rapidly depleting as a handful of endangered Republican senators endure the relentless onslaught of the much-better-financed Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

Under the leadership of New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, the DSCC had raised $94.9 million through September. By contrast, the NRSC, which is chaired by North Carolina freshman Sen. Elizabeth Dole, had raised only $74.4 million. As of the end of September, the DSCC had $23.1 million in the bank, nearly double the $12.1 million in cash on hand at the NRSC.

As Mr. Hurt reported, one reason the DSCC had raised $20 million more than the NRSC is because Democratic senators have been far more generous to their party’s national fund-raising committee for Senate candidates than Republican senators have been. For example, New York’s junior senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has raised $49 million for her 2006 re-election campaign against an opponent with less than 10 percent of that amount, has given the DSCC $2.1 million. (Mrs. Clinton could have afforded to give much more, of course, but then she would enter the post-November presidential sweepstakes with a smaller bank account.)

On the Republican side, only Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has donated $1 million to his party’s re-election committee.

Senate Republicans, who, by virtue of their majority (albeit increasingly tenuous and endangered), now control 100 percent of the chamber’s committee and subcommittee chairmanships, could wake up Nov. 8 addressing their caucus colleagues as “Mr. Ranking Member” or “Madame Ranking Member.” That just doesn’t seem to have the ring — or the power — of “Mr. Chairman.”

If Republican senators want to know how it will feel to have to ask “What if?” on Nov. 8, they should consult their political opponents. Democrats are still trying to figure out why Sen. John Kerry finished the 2004 presidential campaign with more than $12 million in his pre-convention bank account. Mr. Kerry could have transferred all that money to Ohio, where a reversal of a bit more than 1 percent (fewer than 60,000 votes) of the 5.6 million ballots cast two years ago would have handed him the presidency (including at least one and probably two or more Supreme Court nominations) and handed the Democratic Party the entire executive branch.

Democrats may also be asking “What if?” on Nov. 8 should Republicans hold on to the Senate: “What if Mrs. Clinton’s generosity were truly proportionate to her bank account, which exceeded $15 million on Sept. 30? And what if Mr. Kerry finally spent the $8.4 million that remains in his 2004 presidential account?”

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