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September 24, 2009

Fundraising success yields positive headlines for Steele


A surge of campaign cash in August, the month that conservatives stormed Democratic town hall meetings, is generating upbeat media coverage for the Republican Party and national Chairman Michael S. Steele.

The latest good news follows recent predictions that Republicans will make significant gains in the 2010 elections, still more than a year away. As for 2009, polls show the potential for Republican pickups in both of this year's governor's races, in Virginia and New Jersey.

Since Steele took charge at Republican Party headquarters in late January, the RNC has reported $6 million more in total receipts than the Democratic National Committee. A report on Steele's "fundraising savvy" in The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, noted that the national party is using the cash advantage to outspend its Democratic counterpart in the Virginia governor's contest.

In recent years, the RNC has been the lone bright spot for the national party, consistently outraising the DNC. When Steele became chairman, one of the big questions was whether that advantage would continue.

The former Maryland lieutenant governor was known more for his communiciations talents than for his ability to shake the money tree. So far, the results have been positive and he has proved the doubters wrong.

Or has he? The Hill's story, it turns out, had a significant flaw. Steele's committee hasn't actually outraised the competition, though it has in three of the past five months.

Since Steele's tenure began, the DNC has collected about $48.3 million in contributions. The comparable figure for the RNC is about $45 million.

The reason for the disparity: both national party committees have received funds from other committees, transfers that don't qualify as contributions on Federal Election Commission disclosure reports.

In May, for instance, the RNC got an influx of about $12 million in funds left over from a John McCain 2008 campaign account.

What is true is that the Republicans have done better than many expected--and Democrats worse than anticipated--since the Dems are now in power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and, particularly, in light of President Barack Obama's record-breaking prowess as a campaign money lure. (Of course, the 2009-2010 cycle isn't over yet.)

The lead story this morning in USA Today spotlights a Republican comeback in campaign cash, focusing more on Republican House and Senate campaign committees than the RNC. The paper does note, however, that the RNC outraised the DNC by $1 million in August, attracting an average of 2,000 new donors a day, according to party spokeswoman Gail Gitcho.

The latest campaign funding reports show that Republicans have about $28 million in cash on hand, to about $20 million for the Democrats. Also, the Senate Republican campaign committee has brought in more money than the Democrats for two months in a row. This is raising the possibility that the GOP congressional committees will reverse a long-term decline.

The story in The Hill pointed out, more or less accurately, that several longtime Steele consultants have received a total of $360,000 from the RNC so far this year. That includes $219,000 for voter registration and polling by On Message Inc, owned by Steele advisors Curt and Wes Anderson.

Another Steele advisor, Blaise Hazelwood, got $70,000 for her microtargeting company, and Jim Dyke, a South Carolina-based spokesman for Steele during his run for the chairmanship, received more than $59,000 for web video production and other expenses. Finally, Tony Marsh and Lance Copsey, who also helped Steele win the party job, got $14,000 for their communications firm.

On the DNC side, AKPD Message and Media, the company formerly owned by longtime Obama advisor David Axelrod, has been paid $296,000 over the past seven months. David Plouffe, who was Obama's campaign manager, is a senior advisor to the firm.

Posted by Paul West at 12:34 PM |
Categories: Michael Steele

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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