It's the season for ritualistic shaming of House Democrats, a time when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hands out a list of who's been naughty and who's been nice—as measured by checks sent to the DCCC—to every member of the caucus.
And while the point of the exercise is to out those lawmakers who are hoarding campaign cash for themselves (Cough, cough: Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania, who, despite serving as ranking member of House Administration, has given nothing directly to the DCCC and raised zero dollars from others), it is also a cheat sheet for those who are trying to make moves politically.
Handing out checks to colleagues is a time-honored tradition of the politically ambitious. And in this category, one name stands out: Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts.
In the DCCC's latest tally, Kennedy is the only freshman to have already reached his "dues goal" by sending $125,000 of his hard-earned campaign cash to the party committee. Further, he blew past the secondary goal of raising $75,000 for the DCCC from others, bringing in a haul of $278,500 so far this cycle—nearly quadruple what has been asked of him.
It's a sure sign that the 33-year old scion of one of America's best-known political families is planning to follow in his relatives' famous footsteps. Kennedy has all the advantages needed to climb the political ladder, including his youth and a safe Massachusetts seat.
"Congressman Kennedy is focused on standing up for his constituents back home, building relationships with his colleagues, and pursuing his legislative priorities," Kennedy spokeswoman Emily Browne said in an email.
Kennedy himself declined an interview for this story.
The DCCC dues that members are asked to contribute rise on a sliding scale, with freshman owing the least and more senior lawmakers, those on more exclusive committee, and those in leadership asked for more.
Still, Kennedy is in elite company to have paid all his dues already. Other names on the short list are the top House Democratic leaders: Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn, Xavier Becerra, and Steve Israel. Buzzfeed first posted the latest DCCC dues sheet. National Journal also obtained a copy.
The only others, outside of Pelosi's official leadership team, are Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee and a rising star viewed as a speakership contender; Henry Cuellar of Texas, who sits on the Appropriations Committee; and Anna Eshoo of California and Frank Pallone of New Jersey. The latter two are locked in a fierce fight to be the top Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee in 2015.
This article appears in the March 17, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.