RNC’s Fundraising Struggles Raises November Concerns

Sound familiar?

The Republican National Committee’s $5.3 million war chest for the final stretch of the midterm election campaign—which is half the amount of its Democratic counterpart—is causing anxiety among some GOP operatives.

The figure doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for Republican candidates vying in November’s elections. The RNC is just one in a network of groups that support the GOP’s election drive, and many of those are drawing strong support.

The Republican Governors Association, for example, has been raising a record amount of money to spend on the elections—about $28 million this year, including $1 million from News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal.

Others, such as the National Republican Congressional Committee, which aims to increase the number of Republicans in the House, have lately outpaced their Democratic counterparts in donations.

American Crossroads, a group set up by strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, is also raising money to help elect Republican candidates.

Still, the RNC retains a crucial role in election campaigns, managing data on voters and organizing them to go to the polls. Some Republican strategists say its fund-raising gap could hurt the party’s chances in November.

“We’ve got a tremendous opportunity to win some seats this fall and many of those seats are going to be short-changed on the get-out-the-vote effort,” said Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist, calling the RNC’s fund-raising performance “disastrous.”

The RNC says it has spent heavily on races that have helped revive the party’s fortunes after election routs in 2006 and 2008. It says it isn’t disappointed with its fund raising, which it expects to pick up as the election nears. “We’re confident that we’re going to continue to have the resources to put on the ground in key races,” Doug Heye, an RNC spokesman, said Sunday.

The RNC raised some $5.5 million in July, compared with $11.6 million raised by the Democratic National Committee, according to filings made to the Federal Election Commission on Friday. The DNC had $10.9 million in the bank at the end of July, according to the filings.

About $900,000 of the RNC total came from an insurance settlement, rather than from donations.

On top of that, the RNC was saddled with about $2 million in debt, its latest campaign filing showed.

The DNC had $3.5 million in debt. Mr. Rollins and some other Republicans blame a succession of controversies involving RNC Chairman Michael Steele for keeping donors away. Some Republicans questioned Mr. Steele’s leadership after it emerged this year that the RNC had covered about $2,000 in expenses from a visit by a staffer to a bondage-themed club.

Democrats are hoping their edge will help blunt the losses many are expecting in November’s congressional races.

“We think we’ve had a very successful fund-raising operation in place,” said Hari Sevugan, a DNC spokesman.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R., Texas) last week warned Republicans not to underestimate Democrats this year, saying their strong get-out-the-vote operation could help them staunch losses.

“Over the last ten years, the Democrats, particularly the Democrats in the House, have put together one of the most powerful grass-roots coalitions that I’ve ever seen,” Mr. DeLay said on “Fox News.”

“So it’s not a given that the Republicans are going to win all these seats this year, because the Democrats have had a grass-roots organization to help stave off a lot of their losses.”

Read more from Thomas Catan at The Wall Street Journal


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