New election funding fear for Republicans

New election funding fear for Republicans

Rank-and-file Republicans in the US House of Representatives are tens of millions of dollars short of meeting fundraising targets set by their own campaign committee, according to figures circulating among the leadership.

The figures heighten concerns inside the party about major losses in advance of the November elections.

Most recent figures show that Republican politicians have brought $26.3m (€17.1m) into the coffers of the National Republican Congressional Committee in the past 17 months, far short of the target of about $56.5m (€36.8m).

Compounding the challenge, they will soon be asked to raise another $19.5m (€12.7m) or more to help candidates in selected battleground districts.

Rep Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the NRCC, provided the information recently to the leadership and to members of a newly-formed committee charged with reinvigorating the campaign effort in the wake of the loss of three seats to Democrats in special elections in traditionally Republican-leaning districts.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of some of the documents involved in the presentations.

The disclosure comes in addition to other unsettling news for Republicans, who trail Democrats badly in cash on hand and are grappling with the alleged theft of more than $682,500 (€444,829) by a former employee.

The NRCC declined to comment.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, said the Ohio congressman's "focus right now is doing everything possible to help House Republicans be successful this fall, and that includes pushing all our members to do more to help our team".

Republicans controlled the House for 12 years until they lost the majority in 2006. In the months since, their political position has eroded significantly, judging from polls, campaign fundraising and other factors.

The result has been a private acknowledgement among politicians and aides alike that the Republicans are highly unlikely to regain the majority this year and will be fortunate to hold their losses to a minimum.

Both parties have political committees that typically raise more than $97.5m (€63.5m) for the November election campaign. While much of the money comes from donors who receive mail, online solicitations or attend fund-raising events, individual politicians also are expected to help.

The information Mr Cole distributed included the total each Republican had been asked by the NRCC to raise, an amount that is highest for members of the leadership and lowest for first-term politicians facing competitive races in the autumn.

Republicans who hold the senior positions on each committee - the men and women who would take over in a Republican-controlled House - are given higher assessments than more junior colleagues.

The material also shows how much money individuals have brought in, either through fund-raising calls to donors or from transfers from their own campaign treasury.

Mr Cole has donated or transferred $1.4m (€912,471) so far, more than anyone else. Mr Boehner, at $1.26m (€821,224) - is the only other Republican to top six figures. Both men had two-year assessments of nearly $1.13m (€736,494), according to NRCC figures.

However, Republican Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, a member of the leadership, is credited with only $8,285 (€5,400) of nearly $926,000 (€603,534) he has been tasked with raising.

"I've always met and exceeded whatever number they pull out of the air, and I intend to do so again," Mr McCotter said in an interview. He said he represented a swing seat and usually took care of his commitments to the committee later in the election year.

Republicans admit that the perception of another impending defeat makes potential donors even less inclined to contribute.

Democrats currently hold 235 seats in the House, compared to 199 for the Republicans, with one vacancy.

Compounding the problem, the committee has spent months trying to untangle the affairs of a former key staff member, Christopher Ward, who is alleged to have stolen more than $701,800 (€457,408) from the organisation.

An internal probe alleged that the former treasurer used his authority to siphon money from 2001 and 2007. The FBI is also investigating.

Overall, the NRCC, which began the election cycle with a debt of more than $9.74m (€6.35m), showed cash on hand of $6.5m (€4.2m) as of April 30 in its most recent report to the Federal Election Commission.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported cash on hand of about $44m (€28.6m).

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