GOP Lawmakers Give NRCC $3 Million

For the first time this year, House Republicans could end the week in the black after struggling to emerge from debt from the last election.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) are expected to announce that members have transferred more than $3 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee this week as part of a fundraising drive to target incumbent Democrats next fall, GOP aides said Monday.

The transfer comes as the committee sees an uptick in campaign donations after winning two special elections last week in Virginia and Ohio.

“We’re firing on all cylinders heading into 2008,” said Boehner spokesman Brian Kennedy.

Republicans have struggled to regain their fundraising prowess after voters bounced them from power last fall.

That loss, coupled with dismal approval ratings and an angry party base, has made it much harder for members to raise new campaign cash.

Meanwhile, Democrats have trounced their GOP counterparts in fundraising.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had nearly $30 million cash on hand at the end of September, while the NRCC had just over $2.5 million.

Overall, Democrats raised nearly $16 million more than Republicans through the first nine months of the year, giving the majority a significant fundraising edge heading into the election year after lagging far behind the GOP in recent years.

But the biggest distinction this cycle has been the drop-off in money Republican lawmakers have given to the NRCC, compared with the steady increase Democratic lawmakers have made to the DCCC — clear evidence that power has its advantages.

“The Democratic leadership is aggressively communicating with our members to pay their dues,” DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell said.

“This was a critical part of our successful strategy to win the majority and key to expanding it.”

Both parties were saddled with more than $10 million in debt last year.

But the NRCC remained in the red through September despite weekly payments by the committee.

The current push is part of a fundraising drive helmed by Boehner and Dreier to raise member money in order to target incumbent Democrats and retain Republican seats.

Boehner himself will transfer $505,000 for the effort, putting him over the $1 million mark for the year, and Dreier will give $500,000.

The NRCC is also benefiting from the race to fill top committee slots in the wake of prominent retirements.

Republican Rep. Wally Herger of California gave the committee $250,000 last week after announcing his intentions to run for the top slot on the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the wake of Louisiana Rep. Jim McCrery’s surprise retirement announcement.

Retiring Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.) is also expected to make a sizeable donation to the committee as part of the member-driven fundraising effort, GOP aides said.

In addition, NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) recently gave the committee $175,000 of his own campaign money and an additional $125,000 he raised from other members.

Cole had been at odds with Boehner about the operation of the committee and over his strategic vision for regaining the House, but the two continue to work closely together.

Republicans gave Cole a standing ovation during a closed-door meeting last week after the special election wins to retain seats vacated by two lawmakers who died earlier this year — Rep. Jo Ann Davis of Virginia and Rep. Paul Gillmor of Ohio.

Those two wins gave Republicans a much-needed boost, GOP aides said, even though the committee was forced to spend hundreds of thousands defending both seats.

Retiring Republicans — along with the members running to fill their prominent posts — have given the NRCC a much-needed cash infusion this fall.

But those retirements will stretch the committee’s ability to raise money down the road because lobyists and other donors rarely contribute to lawmakers who are calling it quits.

Boehner and Dreier are expected to announce the fundraising transfers during a meeting Tuesday at the Capitol Hill Club to discuss the party’s political prospects.

The contributions come directly from other members’ campaign accounts, but the NRCC can only use the money to support GOP candidates taking on vulnerable Democrats or running to fill open seats.

Boehner hatched the plan earlier this fall to give members more incentive to donate money to the committee.

Dreier has coordinated those efforts with a small handful of fellow Republicans.

Dreier “is proud of the work Mr. Cole has done, and he’s proud to be a part of the team,” said his spokeswoman, Jo Maney.

“He has a very strong commitment to earning back the majority.”