House Campaign Committees Took Out Eight-Figure Loans

The DCCC and NRCC borrowed more than in the previous cycle for the final weeks of an unpredictable election.

Kelly Ward and Ben Ray Lujan of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee speak to reporters Monday.
(Michael Bonfigli/Christian Science Monitor)
Ally Mutnick
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Ally Mutnick
Dec. 13, 2016, 5:38 p.m.

The House cam­paign arms of both ma­jor parties will start the 2018 cycle in debt, ac­cord­ing to re­ports re­cently filed with the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion.

In the fi­nal days of the 2016 elec­tions, the Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an cam­paign com­mit­tees took out lar­ger loans than they had in the pre­vi­ous cycle as they braced for the end of an in­creas­ingly un­pre­dict­able elec­tion sea­son.

Des­pite a ban­ner fun­drais­ing year, the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee bor­rowed $17 mil­lion in late Oc­to­ber, which is $5 mil­lion more than it took out in each of the last two cycles. The party will carry that debt as it seeks to pick up 24 seats to win the ma­jor­ity in 2018 after net­ting six seats last month.

“Ag­gress­ive in­vest­ments were crit­ic­al in or­der to pro­tect in­cum­bents and ul­ti­mately gain seats in a dif­fi­cult na­tion­al­ized en­vir­on­ment, and the DCCC did not leave any op­por­tun­it­ies on the table,” DCCC spokes­wo­man Meredith Kelly said.

The Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee re­ceived a $12 mil­lion loan around the same time. That is $2 mil­lion more than its loan last cycle, but the same amount as in 2012 and 2010.

Last-minute loans are not un­com­mon for either com­mit­tee and are typ­ic­ally used to fund late TV ad blasts. But the loans must be paid back over the 2018 cycle, as both com­mit­tees sim­ul­tan­eously stock up for the midterms.

The NR­CC’s loan, which was bor­rowed from Chain Bridge Bank at an in­terest rate of 2.8 per­cent, is due Aug. 31, 2017. The DCCC has un­til the end of March 2018 to pay back its loan, which it se­cured from Bank of Amer­ica at a float­ing in­terest rate.

Des­pite Demo­crats’ minor­ity status, the DCCC con­sist­ently out­raised its Re­pub­lic­an coun­ter­part throughout the cycle, with some of the largest dis­par­it­ies com­ing to­ward the end. In Septem­ber, the Demo­crat­ic cam­paign arm hauled a re­cord-break­ing $21 mil­lion while the NR­CC raised less than half that amount.

Both com­mit­tees ended the cycle with mil­lions in the bank, and could tap in­to their bal­ances to pay the loans. The NR­CC had $14.2 mil­lion on hand as of late Novem­ber, and the DCCC had $9.3 mil­lion.

In the homestretch, both parties in­ves­ted mil­lions in­to late-break­ing races as Re­pub­lic­ans built a fire­wall against pos­sible down-bal­lot drag from their own pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee and Demo­crats hoped to cap­it­al­ize on an op­por­tun­ity to ex­pand the map. The NR­CC shelled out $73.6 mil­lion in in­de­pend­ent ex­pendit­ures over the cycle to the Demo­crat­ic cam­paign arm’s $80.4 mil­lion, as out­side groups aligned with both parties poured tens of mil­lions more in­to races.

Demo­crats at­trib­uted much of their strong fun­drais­ing to the un­pop­ular­ity of Don­ald Trump, par­tic­u­larly in the af­ter­math of the re­lease of the 2005 Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood tape. But Trump’s de­feat of Hil­lary Clin­ton helped lim­it Demo­crats to mak­ing just a mod­est dent in the GOP’s 30-seat ma­jor­ity.

Re­pub­lic­ans lost a total of nine seats but also picked up three Demo­crat­ic-held seats. Just eight House in­cum­bents lost on Elec­tion Day, in­clud­ing six Re­pub­lic­ans.

Three of the Demo­crats’ pickups were dir­ectly tied to re­dis­trict­ing. And three GOP mem­bers de­feated in Illinois, New Hamp­shire, and Nevada rep­res­en­ted Demo­crat­ic-lean­ing dis­tricts that tend to flip blue in pres­id­en­tial elec­tion years.

Two of the oth­er ous­ted GOP in­cum­bents lost largely be­cause of self-in­flic­ted wounds, but also thanks to strong Demo­crat­ic chal­lengers. Rep. John Mica of Flor­ida was slow to fun­draise after his newly re­drawn dis­trict be­came more Demo­crat­ic, though the NR­CC steered $1.6 mil­lion to his race in the fi­nal weeks. Rep. Scott Gar­rett of New Jer­sey struggled to de­fend against at­tacks on his con­ser­vat­ive re­cord and nev­er re­ceived any help from the GOP com­mit­tee.

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