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Erica Payne

Erica Payne

Posted: October 15, 2010 04:50 PM

Deadbeat Democrats

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Like a chubby kid stockpiling his Dunk-a-roos at snack-time, many Democratic politicians in safe seats are hoarding their goodies while embattled colleagues go hungry this campaign season. More than 70 percent --186 out of 255 -- of House Democrats have not paid their Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dues this cycle, according to a recent CQ Politics article.

The DCCC can spend unlimited dollars to support members, and these politicians not paying up is one big reason there isn't enough to go around right now. Case in point, the DCCC just announced it was canceling planned ad buys in six districts because it is short on cash.

By not paying their dues, these deadbeat Democrats are costing their fellow members millions of dollars - and potentially costing all Democrats control of the House.

There are 46 "dead heat" congressional seats, according to the latest data on FiveThirtyEight. In races that could swing either way, even a small amount of funding in the final stretch can often make the difference. If members only paid their dues -- dues as in you owe them -- the DCCC would have $24 million more to spend on the 46 dead heats and some 30 other races considered in play.

If they stretched themselves a bit, the DCCC would have even more. Safe House members, New York Magazine conservatively estimates, are sitting on about $100 million in their combined war chests. It's worth reminding people that Karl Rove and his Crossroads buddies announced that they will be spending $50 million in the next two weeks.

Check out the chart below (complete with $ figures). It's far from complete, but it highlights some of the worst deadbeats -- members who can't be bothered paying their DCCC dues or meeting their fund raising commitments and members who have paid or raised the money but are safe and sitting on tons of cash.

Who are the worst offenders? While it's hard to pick, surely retiring members belong near the top of the list. That's right, retiring members are sitting on a total of close to $3 million -- and roughly $1 million in unpaid dues. The shuffleboard crowd includes Bart Stupak (Mich.), David Obey (Wis.), Dennis Moore (Kan.), Marion Berry (Ark,), Brian Baird (Wash.) and Bill Delahunt (Mass.).

Frank Pallone of New Jersey is the most flush -- a whopping $4 million in the bank. But close behind are Ed Markey (Mass.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas) and Allyson Schwartz (Pa..) -- each with around $3 million. Then Steve Rothman (N.J.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.), and Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) with about $2 million each. Note to Carolyn: you beat Reshma by 62 points, you can spare some cash.

Among the most powerful deadbeats are House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.) and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Sander Levin (Mich.). It's worth reminding these honorables that they only get to keep their chairmanships if the Democrats keep the House. Maybe that could shake loose a little of the $1.4 million and $700,000 in their respective war chests.

The list goes on, and on, and on.

The bottom line is: vulnerable Democrats are begging donors for cash -- $2,400 at a time, while their colleagues are sitting on millions of dollars they could unleash with a pen stroke.

What is wrong? It sure isn't a lack of leadership. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Del.) have raised and given millions to their colleagues.

So what is it? Senate aspirations? Bag lady syndrome? Who knows? And, frankly, who cares?

If these members don't start giving soon, it's one reason that, come January, they might well be hearing the gavel of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), answering subpoenas from Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and debating energy policy with chairman Joe "You Lie" Barton (R-S.C.).

For Democrats, no amount of Dunk-a-roos is worth that.

It's time we taught our little hoarders to share. The next time you get a fund-raising call -- let the person on the other end of the line know that you're tapped out but you have a great lead, some friends flush with cash, who might just be interested in Democratic politics.

Then send them this link.

Erica Payne, a public-policy strategist, is the founder of the Agenda Project, a policy and advocacy organization. She is the author of "Practical Progressive: How to Build a 21st Century Political Movement."

 

Follow Erica Payne on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PayneFullyTrue