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Thursday February 11th, 2016 8:07AM

House Democratic campaign committee sits on $40M for this year's elections

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Donors gave more than $10 million in March to the committee tasked with electing House Democrats and helped it amass a $40 million fund to fight skepticism that Republicans can be ousted from their majority in November.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $10.3 million in March, putting it atop the fundraising contest among party-directed campaign committees. That sum also outpaced most three-month fundraising tallies released thus far from super PACs, which can accept unlimited donations. Donations to House Democrats' campaign committee are capped at $32,400.

"The DCCC has sustained a blistering fundraising pace this election cycle because Americans are sick and tired of a Republican Congress that shut down our government and that is stacking the deck for the wealthiest while the middle class pays the price," said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who chairs the Democrats' House campaign arm.

"Americans are hungry for a Congress that will buckle down and focus on creating jobs and strengthening the economy - and that's why they're supporting the DCCC at record levels," he said in a statement.

Republicans outnumber Democrats by 34 seats and there are three vacancies in the House. Democrats face a steep climb to reclaim their majority for the first time since tea party-aligned candidates helped the GOP take control of the chamber during the 2010 elections.

That has not stopped donors.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is sitting on one of the largest bank accounts in politics, both among party-linked campaign committees and outside groups. Among party-backed groups that have disclosed their fundraising, the closest rival is the Democrats' Senate committee, sitting on $22 million at the end of March.

The committee's Republican rivals are expected to announce their March fundraising numbers by Sunday's deadline. The National Republican Congressional Committee is not expected to trump the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's report.

House Republicans' committee ended February with almost $24.8 million banked.

House Democrats are optimistic the savings might help their operatives test strategies in multiple districts until they narrow down their options to a handful of races that might provide a pathway - albeit a narrow one - back to the majority.

But party-aligned committees are just one piece of the political money puzzle that is already approaching the $1 billion mark - completely independent of candidates whose names are on the ballots.

An imprecise snapshot of political giving through March 31 shows enormous sums of money moving through the national parties, their campaign committees and outside groups. Millions more are being raised and spent through other outside groups that operate under rules that allow them to keep many details of their finances secret.

Democrats, at least for the moment, seem to have a roughly 3-to-1 advantage over Republicans in cash raised and banked through independent groups, according to the early filings. That balance of power could quickly change, however.

Groups that disclose whose money is coming in and how much is going out on a quarterly basis faced a midnight Tuesday deadline. Groups that release that information on a monthly basis have until Sunday to post their reports.

For instance, National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund has until Sunday to file. Through the end of February, the Republican-leaning group had raised almost $14 million.

And Americans for Prosperity, one of the most aggressive in running ads against Democrats as part of the billionaire Koch brothers' network of conservative groups, does not have to disclose its donors because, under tax rules, it is technically not political. Democrats have been relentless in criticizing Charles and David Koch's role in helping Republican candidates.

The soon-to-be-reached $1 billion mark is comparable to what President Barack Obama, the Democratic National Committee and his top super PAC spent to win a second term in 2012. His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, and his allies spent about the same to come up short. But those sums were over two years of campaigning. The 2014 campaign still has eight months to go.

The Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group with ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, raised $11 million during the first three months of the year. That super PAC is sitting on almost $20 million to help defend Democrats' six-seat majority.

EMILY's List, which aims to elect female pro-abortion rights candidates, raised more than $2.5 million in March, bringing its total sum to almost $25 million this election cycle.

And the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads super PAC stepped up its fundraising to help Republicans. The group raised more cash in March than it did during the previous 14 months combined.

The GOP establishment's favorite super PAC raised almost $5.2 million in March and had more than $6.3 million in the bank as of March 31. That cash already has been used to criticize incumbent Democratic senators in Alaska and North Carolina and is expected to support former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown in his bid to unseat Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.
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