NRSC Seeking Rare Infusion From Senators

By David M. Drucker, CQ-Roll Call

Sen. John Cornyn has begun urging his colleagues to step up their giving to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, saying he needs an influx of high-dollar campaign donations to compete with Democrats and capitalize on the most favorable political environment in years.

Upon assuming the NRSC chairmanship in 2008, the Texas Republican made a strategic decision to avoid asking GOP Senators to make major transfers from their personal campaign accounts, something they have historically declined to do.

Instead, he asked them to help the NRSC raise money, including donating the maximum allowed from their leadership political action committees and transferring the individual donor limit of $30,400 annually from their campaign accounts.

Cornyn emphasized that Republicans have responded enthusiastically and provided the NRSC with crucial support. But with three months to go until Election Day and an outside chance at winning the majority, Cornyn is warning his colleagues that they might look back on Nov. 2 as a missed opportunity if Democrats continue to significantly outpace them in Member giving to campaign committees.

“How badly we want it is going to be reflected by how hard we all work to raise the money — from whatever source — to make sure that these races have the fuel that they need,” Cornyn said in an interview Tuesday. “This is our potential comeback, and I just think we need to make the most of it. I think the last thing any of us want to do is wake up on Nov. 3 and think [that] if we’d just done a little bit more, the outcome would have been different.”

For the election cycle through June 30, Democratic Senators had transferred $5.3 million in campaign and leadership PAC funds to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Republicans transferred just $642,000 to the NRSC during the same period. Nevertheless, the NRSC has kept pace in overall fundraising, ending June with $19.7 million in cash on hand compared with the DSCC’s $21.6 million.

Republicans need to flip 10 of the 11 Democratic-held Senate seats that they are targeting to regain the majority — a tall order, although no longer considered impossible. To do so, the GOP would need to hold open Republican seats in the swing states of Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio, while also winning Democratic seats in a handful of solid blue states.

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune conceded that Member transfers are among the most effective ways for the NRSC to raise money and suggested Republican Senators might be willing to open their checkbooks if they are convinced that it can make a difference. The South Dakotan is up for re-election and closed the second quarter with about $7 million in cash on hand, but he faces no Democratic or independent opposition.

“I think that most Senators are going to do everything they can to help us and our candidates, particularly if it looks like it’s going to make a difference in close races,” Thune said. “I think you’ll see a lot of people who are going to step up, and as these races get into the fall, get into the home stretch, and it looks like they’re competitive in a lot of places around the country, it’s going to take a lot of resources, and we’re going to have to find it wherever we can, and obviously Member contributions is one of them.”

Unlike Senate Democrats, Republicans in good years and bad have generally balked at funneling personal campaign funds to their campaign committee in any significant measure.

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