WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee is getting smoked by its GOP counterpart in fundraising — and some major Democrats are panicked it could hurt their chances at defeating President Trump next year.
The DNC brought in just $22.9 million over the last three months including $9.5 million in June, according to a campaign finance report filed Saturday night with the Federal Election Commission. That’s less than half the Republican National Committee’s haul over the same time period: $51 million.
The DNC had just $9.3 million in the bank at the end of June, less than a quarter the $44 million RNC had — and that doesn’t even factor in the DNC’s $5.7 million in debt. The RNC and President Trump’s campaign had a combined $100 million in the bank.
The huge cash disparity puts Democrats behind the eight-ball in the time-and money-consuming process of building out strong voter contact programs in the states that will determine whether Trump gets reelected.
“They need to get their shit together. Now,” said Adam Parkhomenko, a Hillary Clinton campaign alumna who served as the DNC’s national field director for the final few months of the 2016 campaign.
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“When Hillary became the nominee in 2016 she was handed nothing, the DNC was nothing and there was nothing to build on,” he said. “You’d think we would have spent the last few years making sure this would never happen again, and it has.”
Trump’s campaign and the RNC are already using their massive cash advantage to sow the ground for next year’s election, spending more than $60 million this year alone on digital operations including $10 million on ads and building out a ground game infrastructure that takes months if not years to develop.
Democrats can’t keep up.
Haven't "received a dime"
While their top presidential candidates are raising big money, the tedious years-long work of building out party voter files, identifying voters’ top concerns, and turning them out to vote is the purview of the national party, the DNC. The party’s current lack of cash could hamstring their eventual nominee and hurt down-ticket candidates, especially in states that aren’t presidential battlegrounds and are especially cash-strapped.
“This is a real problem that our party and the major donors are not facing.”
“This is a real problem that our party and the major donors are not facing,” said Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb, who said her party hasn’t “received a dime yet” of money the DNC promised to them earlier in the year and hasn’t been able to hire field staff she’d planned on.
The party’s fundraising woes began long before DNC Chairman Tom Perez took over in early 2017. The DNC has been outraised by the RNC in every two-year campaign cycle since 2010, following a disastrous move by President Obama to spin off his own campaign into a separate operation, starving the party of resources for years.
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“Under President Obama we completely ignored our state and DNC infrastructure and now we’re paying a major price,” said Kleeb.
Other hurdles face the DNC. The GOP always has a natural advantage with big donors as the party of big business and billionaires. Small-dollar donors are rarely eager to give to a committee instead of a candidate — and the DNC’s perceived bias towards Clinton in the 2016 primaries badly damaged the DNC’s image. Democrats don’t have the White House, so they don’t have a fundraiser-in-chief, and a crowded presidential field is sucking up most donor attention and resources.
Democrats credit Perez for cleaning up some of the mess he inherited. The party has grown from 30 to 200 employees as fundraising has improved, and the DNC recently hired 1,000 rising college seniors to be full-time organizers after graduation.
The committee parted ways with longtime finance chairman Henry Muñoz in early May and replaced him with Chris Korge, a major Democratic Party donor. Under Korge, the DNC raised $3.2 million more in June than May. But with the Democratic National Convention just a year away, Perez is running out of time to right the ship.
“The one thing that has been changed is they replaced their finance chair with a guy who’s a very good money-raiser,” said former DNC Chairman Ed Rendell.
Korge argued the DNC is hitting its internal fundraising marks and promised it would raise more than it did during the 2016 cycle. While he admitted the GOP would vastly outraise them, he pointed out that the DNC and Clinton outspent the RNC and Trump by a wide margin in 2016 and Trump still won.
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“We’re running a very tight organization, we’re managing our money in a way that maximizes our effectiveness and helps us build our team as fast as we possibly can,’” Korge said. “They [Republicans] will not have one bell or whistle that we don’t have as good or better than them. I am 100% convinced of it.”
Many major liberal donors don’t buy it, however, and continue to refuse to give to the DNC, instead backing candidates or outside groups.
“People arent giving to the DNC because they don’t know why the fuck they should,” said Democratic strategist Tracy Sefl. “What is it that you’re paying for? People think messaging is what the DNC does. It’s not that at all, it’s the nuts and bolts boring stuff [that matters].”
Korge’s response to scared Democrats?
“Don’t panic. Write a check.”
Cover: Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, speaks during the Democratic National Committee (DNC) IWillVote Gala fundraising event in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)