It seems that the days of going door-to-door, talking with constituents, putting stickers on bumpers, and speaking atop a soap box in effort to seek office in Washington D.C. are over. The idealistic young “Mr. Smith” types are now greatly overshadowed by big money from outside the district and powers unseen. In his 2017 Farewell Address, President Barack Obama told the Chicago crowd, “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.” However, money now reigns supreme as the ultimate campaign tool, according to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
Recently, Deep Sran, a Democrat running to unseat Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (VA-10), gave reporters from The Young Turks (TYT) emails regarding campaign funding in the Northern Virginia congressional district. The email states:
Thank you for your commitment to building a stronger america and your hard work as candidate during the 2018 election cycle.
We are setting your Q1 goal at $500,000 raised by March 31st.
The goal is tailor-made for your campaign. It is based on the cost communication with voters in your district and reflects our belief in your fundraising potential. Of course, your DCCC fundraising goal is not the sole benchmark of a successful campaign, but achieving your quarterly goal is an important factor as we distribute resources to your race. Most importantly, achieving your quarterly goal sets you on a path to be able to afford the campaign necessary to win in November 2018.
As always, we are committed to helping you reach your goal and providing you with whatever advice or assistance we can. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions and concerns. Thank you again for your continued hard work.
Ben Ray Luján
“I don’t know whether the Chairman intended to scare candidates out of their races with these goals, but I do know that the DCCC has already raised money for their recruited candidate in my district,” Sran said in a response to the email. “And this email’s hollow offer of support does nothing to convince me that they intend to do anything meaningful for the other eight candidates,” he added in the TYT report.
In 2017, TYT reported a “memo of understanding” was sent by the DCCC to Democrat candidates across the country. However, Sran claims he did not receive the memo. Some recipients of the memo expressed concerned and stated it reflects the DCCC’s moves to elevate its preferred candidates in primaries around the country.
According to the memo, “The candidate agrees to have a campaign budget completed six months prior to their primary and to focus on preserving at least 75% of funds for paid communications.” Moreover, the candidates must agree to, “employ the DCCC’s roster of consultants.”
DCCC vice chairman, Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-4), sent a fundraising email last year on behalf of Jennifer Wexton, another Comstock challenger. Wexton is seen by many in the VA-10 race as having the backing of the national party. Therefore, if Sran’s fundraising goal for the first quarter is $500,000, what is Wexton’s?
According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, in the fourth quarter of 2017, Wexton raised $203,204.35 and currently has $473,796.40 of cash-on-hand. Sran only raised $67,549 during the same quarter and has just $93,245.38 of cash-on-hand.
It is obvious Sran feels slighted by the DCCC and big bucks donors. The DCCC has consistently favored candidates who have the most fundraising vigor, even though it had a diminished effect during the 2016 election cycle because of the shifting national mood. However, the fact that Sran feels disenfranchised is not the real story here. The DCCC and the national party want a self-funding candidate so they can save their resources for other races in 2018.
In the same fiscal quarter, VA-10 Democratic candidate Alison Friedman raised $360,659.29 and reported $687,085.27 cash-on-hand. Wexton, the presumed Democratic nominee, at least on the financial front, is third place to Friedman. It is also interesting to note that out of the $967,138 itemized contributions she has raised, 93 percent has come from other states. Moreover, the top donor city that favors Friedman is not McLean, or Fairfax, or Leesburg, it is San Francisco. Out of the top ten donor counties, seven of them are in California. While the DCCC has a fully-funded candidate in Friedman, her donation trail is indicative that the people of VA-10 are not enamored by her and that other districts need financial support.
The Democrats lost the fundraising battle in 2017. To mitigate the lack of funds, California billionaire Tom Steyer is pumping $30 million into House races this year in effort to unseat Republicans and dethrone President Donald Trump. He even cited Comstock as one of his main targets this election cycle and is a top national target for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Though, the Koch brothers announced last week they will do battle as well in 2018 with a war chest of $400 million for Republican candidates across the nation.
The narrative within the DNC and DCCC is the same. Authentic candidates, while people may like them, do not serve a fundraising purpose. Instead of pulling out clipboards, the Democrats like it better to see people pulling out checkbooks to forward their agenda.