Ante up for final midterm campaign spending, House Democrats told

The nerd science of political campaigns
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Story highlights

  • Democratic leaders seek campaign donations from rank and file representatives
  • As midterm vote nears, Democrats want final push for incumbents in tight races
  • Representatives are asked to give their extra funds to help in those races
House Democrats are bracing for a rough election night next Tuesday, and top leaders are making a major push for rank and file members to open their wallets to help save those vulnerable Democrats who are in danger of losing their seats.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep Steve Israel, D-New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, held a conference call Tuesday afternoon with House Democrats and told them it was time to pony up -- and gave them a Friday deadline.
According to a source on the call, a dozen House members and two Democratic candidates pledged almost $500,000 during the session.
Several Democratic sources told CNN that members are expecting Republicans to pick up some seats, but they still believe that many House Democrats in competitive districts are positioned to survive if they get support. The DCCC has invested heavily in field operations with 950 staff in 40 districts. But the surge of outside money from GOP groups on new television and radio spots, combined with contributions from several wealthy GOP candidates, has Democrats concerned.
In a memo circulated to House Democrats, the DCCC chairman argued that the uptick in GOP spending by outside groups was something the committee was prepared to counter. Israel wrote that despite the effort by Republicans and their allies, "not a single Democratic incumbent is out of contention. This is a stark contrast from 2010, where many incumbents were already down and out despite our best efforts."
But Israel also said, "This climate is incredibly challenging and only getting harder."
So, with seven days left before the midterms, the leaders stepped up the pressure on members to give now.
The DCCC has consistently out-raised its GOP counterpart over the course of the 2014 election cycle. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, House Democrats have raised over $172 million for the midterms, while House Republicans have raised about $131 million. For Democrats, much of the money has been brought in by top leaders like Pelosi, Israel and Rep Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat. The purpose of the call on Tuesday was to make it clear that they expect others, especially those who were given plum committee posts by their leaders, to lend a hand.
There are always members in both parties who sit on money in their campaign accounts at the end of an election cycle. Some of these members might be considering a bid for the Senate or governor, or may be reluctant to share the cash with their colleagues. But the ones who spent hours hosting fundraisers and trekking over to the Democratic headquarters to dial donors for dollars are frustrated with colleagues who don't reach their targets and don't seem to suffer major repercussions.
According to a DCCC dues sheet obtained by CNN, about 90% of House Democrats have contributed to the campaign committee, but 77 -- less than half of the House Democratic caucus -- have paid the full amount of dues for the 2014 midterms. Leaders were expected to raise between $450,000 and $800,000 for this cycle, and data from the DCCC shows 37 House Democrats exceeded their goals.
Democrats on key committees overseeing banks, telecommunications companies, and other industries who donate to campaigns are also expected to raise significant money -- between $200,000 and $500,000 per election cycle, depending on their committee and seniority. But the 2013-2014 dues sheet shows many of those committee leaders fell short on their fundraising goals.
For example, Michigan Rep Sander Levin, who is the top Democrat on the tax writing committee, gave $525,000 -- more than his assigned $500,000. But California Democratic Rep Henry Waxman, who is the most senior Democrat on the Energy and Commerce panel, and a close ally of Pelosi's, has sent in $10,000 of his $500,000 in dues. Waxman's office did not respond to an inquiry from CNN.
Internal tallies of members' campaign contributions are regularly shared among House Democrats. Making sure fellow Democrats see the spreadsheets that show who is paying up and who isn't is a tool leaders hope will shame those who haven't given significant amounts yet to write checks. But it's also a list leaders keep in mind when they decide who gets to keep slots on powerful committees in the next Congress.