WASHINGTON — House Democratic lawmakers are holding onto their campaign cash despite pleas from the campaign committee for money to help the party, a reflection of the nervousness among incumbents.
Only 16 of the 254 members of the Democratic caucus have paid their full obligation to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press. Of those, dozens have outstanding balances of at least $125,000. Lawmakers in unexpectedly tight re-election campaigns and those who could face serious challenges are keeping their dollars in their accounts.
The situation is hardly unique to Democrats; all political campaign committees establish such benchmarks and then struggle to collect millions that fund Washington-approved ads and polling. But the House Democrats' report shows several retiring lawmakers who are sitting on cash that could help defend incumbents in this political environment.
Retiring Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey has a $400,000 balance on his dues report despite almost $1.4 million in his campaign account. Similarly, retiring Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee has about $100,000 left on his tab to the committee; he has $1.1 million in his campaign account. And four other retiring lawmakers have given zero cash despite almost $1.4 million in their combined campaign accounts. [See who is giving money to Gordon.]
Incumbents have until Election Day to make good on their obligations.
A spokesman for the group played down the debts.
"The DCCC is a member participation organization, and we appreciate everything our members do for us," said Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the group.
Democratic leaders assess dues on members of their caucus, ranging from $800,000 each for top lawmakers to $150,000 annually for less powerful members. Separately, Democrats establish additional fundraising goals for members; only 42 lawmakers have met those goals.
Incumbents designated as top targets aren't expected to pony up their cash, but some of those who have contributed zero to their dues include Rep. Maxine Waters, a chief deputy whip, and Rep. Ike Skelton, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who has $1.2 million in the bank yet could be vulnerable.
Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, the chair of an appropriations subcommittee, has paid neither his $250,000 dues bill nor met his additional $250,000 fundraising goal for the DCCC, according to the May 26 report. Edwards' most recent federal financial report said he had more than $1.7 million in his account as he seeks an eleventh term in what could be a tight campaign. [See which industries give the most money to Edwards.]
It's a familiar scenario in other races that could hinge on the national mood.
Rep. Paul Kanjorski, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won re-election with 52 percent of the vote, has not paid his $250,000 DCCC dues despite almost $1.2 million in the bank. And Rep. Tim Bishop won his Long Island district with 58 percent of the vote in 2008; the four-term New York lawmaker has $1.2 million banked yet has paid none of his dues.