Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NRCC to Turn Lemons into Lemonade?

The surge of retirements for House Republicans poses a challenge in the effort to retake the majority next year, but it also poses a surprising opportunity. Those retirees tend to be more senior, and in many cases they've built up large war chests that they won't need. Federal law allows those funds to be used for a variety of different purposes. One permissible use is a transfer to party committees.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is actively working to tap the campaign war chests of retiring GOP Members who are collectively sitting on nearly $5 million — more than double what the cash-strapped NRCC last reported having in the bank.

Nine of the Republicans who have announced they are leaving at the end of next year and not running for other office in total hold $4.67 million in their re-election accounts — money that they are legally able to transfer to the NRCC.

Sources said NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) has been aggressively reaching out to Members who are leaving to discuss options for how their campaign funds could benefit the party’s 2008 efforts...

But this cycle the NRCC has lagged far behind its Democratic counterpart when it comes to available funds for the 2008 elections, as Cole has worked to pay down a large debt leftover from the 2006 cycle. As of Aug. 31, the NRCC had less than $2 million in its coffers while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had more than $22 million.

Behind Hobson, GOP Reps. Jim Ramstad (Minn.), Terry Everett (Ala.) and Chip Pickering (Miss.) have the largest campaign war chests among the retiring Members. Their three campaign committees have a total of $2.4 million.

Pickering said he had been in close consultation with Cole about how he could use a portion of his funds to help the NRCC and GOP candidates.

“He’s recommended some good uses,” Pickering said...

Retiring Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio), a former House GOP Conference chairwoman, said she is more than happy to use her $367,000 to help out the party.

“It will go to support House Republicans and central Ohio races,” she said when asked what she planned to do with her campaign money.

Members of Congress can be extremely reluctant to part with hard-earned campaign dollars. Some retirees -- like Pickering -- will want to save cash for future campaigns for other office. It's clear however, that some of the House GOP retirees will not seek elective office again. They might help winnow down the Democratic cash advantage.

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