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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