WASHINGTON -- Neither the Republican National Committee nor the Democratic National Committee had a phenomenal first quarter of fundraising in 2013. Both pulled in less than $20 million over the first three months of the year, but the RNC came out on top by $4.4 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
In these early months of the 2014 election cycle, the RNC's advantage is not coming from greater success in attracting big contributions, but rather from a strong small-donor program and the transfer of leftover funds that had been raised for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
In total, the Republicans brought in $18.3 million and the Democrats brought in $13.9 million. Neither the RNC nor the DNC returned requests for comment.
From January through March, the two party committees had similar success with donors giving over $200, both raising about $5.5 million. But the Republicans' small-donor efforts brought in $10.5 million compared to $8 million for the Democrats. The RNC also received $1.3 million in transfers from committees that were affiliated with or received money from Romney Victory, the primary fundraising vehicle for the Romney campaign. These two categories make up almost all of the difference in fundraising between the two committees.
In the 2012 election, the RNC beat the DNC in every category -- large donors, small donors, transfers from the presidential candidate's committees -- to raise $409 million to the DNC's $316 million.
In fact, since the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law changed the way that party committees raise money, the RNC has bested the DNC in fundraising in three out of five elections. Moreover, when the Republicans won the fundraising race, they did so by wide margins, while the Democrats have only won by slim margins.
While neither committee is raising money at a fast clip this early in the 2014 cycle, the DNC has a greater need for cash: It is currently $22.5 million in debt, left over from 2012 election spending, while the RNC has no debt.
This puts the Democrats' chief political arm at a major disadvantage in the next midterm election. For an organization that has raised more than $200 million during a midterm cycle only once before, the loss of $22.5 million to pay back debts could significantly hamper its efforts. President Barack Obama has recently tried to help by appearing at fundraisers for the DNC.