A number of Democrats running for the House have shunned Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – but they may have to thank her for their seats if they win this fall.
Internal documents obtained by CNN show that the California Democrat remains a fundraising juggernaut for House Democrats as they battle to pick up the 23 seats they need to retake the House majority for the first time since the GOP won control of the chamber in the 2010 midterms.
Through June, Pelosi had raised an eye-popping $83 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2018 election cycle, more than double the next closest Democrat, according to an internal list for the group charged with electing more Democrats to the US House of Representatives. A source briefed on the matter said that through July she had raised nearly $91 million for the party committee, which is spending big in hotly contested races including where Democratic candidates are running away from Pelosi.
Despite facing more opposition from Democrats than any other time in her career, Pelosi’s fundraising strength remains her biggest asset – a clear sign why she continues to maintain a hold atop her caucus. If Democrats retake the House in November, Pelosi is certain to use that appeal to try to convince even her skeptics to give her another opportunity to take the speaker’s gavel.
Yet Democrats running in Republican-leaning districts are wary of being tied too closely to her – even though her fundraising is certain to help bankroll DCCC ad campaigns in their districts.
In Kansas, Democratic US House candidate Paul Davis demanded TV stations pull down a GOP attack ad that accuses him of having a campaign “bankrolled” by Pelosi and other House Democrats and says a “vote for Paul Davis is a vote for Nancy Pelosi.”
“I’ve stated since day one of my candidacy that I will not support Nancy Pelosi for leader or speaker if elected,” Davis asserted.
But Davis is a part of the DCCC’s “red-to-blue” program, races for seats identified by the party committee that could flip from Republican control to the Democrats, and the committee is poised to spend on the airwaves in that race to defeat Republican Lynn Jenkins. About one-third of the 67 candidates in the red-to-blue program have said they wouldn’t vote for Pelosi for speaker; a total of 35 Democratic candidates who have won their primaries have said they would not vote for Pelosi as speaker, according to a CNN tally.
The Davis campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment about Pelosi’s fundraising.
The June fundraising list – which was obtained from a source outside of the DCCC and is the most recent list provided to members of the caucus – pertains strictly to money raised for the party committee, candidates in the red-to-blue program and vulnerable incumbents in the party’s so-called “Frontline” program. It doesn’t include numbers that members raised for other Democratic candidates. The fundraising goals are set by the committee based on the members’ respective positions, with Democrats in leadership spots and with prime seats on House panels expected to bring in bigger bucks.
Pelosi’s office declined to comment, as did DCCC officials.
“The DCCC doesn’t comment on internal documents,” said Meredith Kelly, a spokeswoman for the committee.
Fundraising numbers detail shortfalls and big earners
The internal DCCC list also offers clues to how individual lawmakers are performing for the party committee – particularly those ambitious members looking for spots at the leadership table. Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who is running to be vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus next year, had doubled her fundraising goal through June, raising $1.1 million, mostly for vulnerable incumbents and those in the red-to-blue program – while transferring an additional $300,000 to the DCCC.
The second biggest fundraiser is Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, chairman of the DCCC, who has pulled in $35 million for House candidates, including $2 million for Democrats in tough races.
Other potential Pelosi successors have raised seven figures for their party but far less than the leader, with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland pulling in $3 million and Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the assistant Democratic leader, helping pull in $3.7 million – each exceeding his goal. Other prominent Democrats, like Reps. Adam Schiff of California and Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, have far exceeded their goals, with each pulling in roughly $2.1 million for the committee.
Yet the list also reveals members who have fallen well short of their goals. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who challenged Pelosi for the House Democratic leader position last year and has suggested he may run against her again next year, had fallen well short of his goals through June.
Ryan had raised just $60,000 and had transferred just $5,000 to the DCCC through June, far short of his $250,000 goal. He had given nothing for the vulnerable incumbents in the Frontline program and the candidates in the red-to-blue program. Of Pelosi’s haul, she had raised $3.3 million through June and nearly $4 million for the Frontline and red-to-blue candidates through July.
Michael Zetts, a spokesperson for Ryan, defended his boss’ efforts, saying he’s donated more than $165,000 to 105 Democratic candidates, local parties and progressive groups this cycle.
“Ryan has tirelessly traveled the country campaigning directly on behalf of our candidates,” Zetts said. “We have 83 days left in this election, and Ryan plans to continue to help Democrats both financially and on the ground in their districts. But at the end of the day, as we have seen time and time again, we can have all the money in the world, but it doesn’t buy you elections. Our candidates and our message matter more than money.”
Another prominent Democrat – the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Foorida – had transferred just $2,500 of her dues to the party committee through June, despite having a $300,000 goal. A Wasserman Schultz campaign official said she has now transferred $35,000 in dues to the committee, while raising just over $372,000 – still short of her $500,000 goal in that category.
Kevin Gerson, a spokesperson for the congresswoman, said she “expects to meet the fundraising goals set by the caucus.” He added that she is helping nearly two dozen candidates in Florida and other states, “while vastly outraising all of her opponents in a general election that she refuses to take for granted.”
Other prominent Democrats also haven’t pulled their weight.
Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who is positioned to lead the House Financial Services Committee if Democrats take the House, has transferred just $20,000 to the committee despite having a $500,000 goal. Even though President Donald Trump has derisively referred to her as the true Democratic leader, Waters raised just over $90,000 for the committee, even though she set a $1 million goal, while raising just $5,500 for candidates in the toughest races. A Waters spokesman didn’t provide a comment to CNN.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard had transferred just $20,000 to the committee out of her campaign accounts, despite having a $125,000 goal – and raised just $500 separately for the DCCC while providing nothing to the candidates in the most competitive races.
A Gabbard aide said there’s a reason she hasn’t helped.
“Unfortunately, this cycle the DCCC has chosen to spend money on negative campaigning and mudslinging against progressive Democrats in primary elections, which is something Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard cannot support,” said Erika Tsuji, who is Gabbard’s political director.