DNC enters 2018 in cash panic
Gabriel Debenedetti and Edward-Isaac Dovere
October 22, 2017
"LAS VEGAS — The Democratic National Committee is reeling, facing a turnaround that's proving a much bigger lift than anyone expected as it struggles to raise enough money to cover its basic promises.
"Many donors are refusing to write checks. And on-the-ground operatives worry they won’t have the resources to build the infrastructure they need to compete effectively in next year’s midterms and in the run-up to 2020.
"Here in the halls of the Bally's hotel and casino for the DNC's fall meeting through the weekend, state committee chairs and operatives echoed a now-common concern among donors and strategists: the DNC's recovery is still a ways away, and that could have serious repercussions for the party in the coming years.
"'Donors, small and large, are so over the party,' said Nebraska party chair Jane Kleeb, summing up the problem facing DNC chairman Tom Perez and his counterparts in the states.
"But the DNC reboot under Perez, the former Labor Department secretary who took over the DNC in late February, has taken longer than anticipated, in part because of the sheer scale of the undertaking, said a range of party operatives, donors, and elected officials.
"'It's a very legitimate concern,' said one DNC member who has spent years raising money for the committee.
"The financial challenges reflect a broader struggle at a committee led by a chairman who is new to party politics — and on a steep learning curve at a time national Democrats are still searching for an identity after a historic loss. And it's not just donors who are staying away as the Perez-led group promises an expansive set of new investments and innovations. The party's old leaders, led by former president Barack Obama, have kept their involvement to a minimum, as well.
"Much of the immediate anxiety centers on the State Party Innovation Fund, a planned $10.5 million competitive grant program that DNC leadership has made available to interested state parties over the next year. The money is meant to pay for organizing, ground operations and other mechanics seen as essential to countering Republican National Committee investments that helped elect Donald Trump and a slew of other other Republican candidates in 2016, leapfrogging Democrats in the process.
"The planned funding is on top of the $10,000 each state party receives from the DNC every month.
"But entering October, the DNC had just $7 million in its main account, which also has to cover its central responsibilities and salaries.
"Compared not just to the RNC, but to other Democratic committees, groups and candidates that are teeming with donations, the DNC's funding problems are stark. That is the case even though it's customary for an out-of-power committee to face a drop-off.
"Party officials involved in fundraising say donors repeatedly turn them away with a 'try again next year,' especially since it became clear there won't be an official party autopsy from 2016.
"Even donors who are more willing to play ball have a stern message: The party needs a clearer plan to win before we fork over more money.
"'You can't just go to [donors] and say ... 'Support me, I'm the DNC.' You have to rebuild the credibility,' said a longtime Democratic donor and DNC member.
"DNC members themselves have now been asked to give or raise $1,000 each, some said — a request people who've been around the committee for decades say they can't remember being made before.
"It's not just a fundraising hole DNC officials are facing. They have to rebuild political infrastructure and trust in the wake of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's controversial tenure atop the committee, the loss of the White House, and the fallout from the Russian hack of the committee computer system.
"After being slow to assemble a full staff, the DNC is still advertising for 22 jobs to fill, including a chief security officer and a data science lead.
"Paying for those jobs will take more money, which means winning over more skeptical donors.
"'I've had enough dinners,' said Orlando attorney John Morgan, a longtime top party donor who is now considering a Florida gubernatorial run. 'I’m not really interested. I’m going to let them get new blood. I can’t get motivated.'"
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