Why Is Harry Reid Raising Money for a House Candidate in a Safe Seat?

Answer: Jersey politics.

National Journal
Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
July 15, 2014, 6:51 p.m.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id’s of­fice is in jeop­ardy this year. That means he’s spend­ing hours upon hours on fun­drais­ing and strategy ses­sions with Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates and the Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, all with an eye to­ward keep­ing his party in com­mand.

So why, then, is Re­id head­ing to New Jer­sey next month to raise money for a House can­did­ate — in a safe Demo­crat­ic seat, no less?

The Star-Ledger in New Jer­sey re­por­ted that Re­id will be a star guest at an Aug. 4 fun­draiser for Don­ald Nor­cross, a Demo­crat­ic state sen­at­or run­ning for the seat va­cated when Rep. Rob An­drews resigned earli­er this year. Nor­cross is ex­pec­ted to win eas­ily. But he isn’t your av­er­age first-time con­gres­sion­al can­did­ate: Nor­cross’s broth­er George is South Jer­sey’s ma­jor Demo­crat­ic power broker, a deep-pock­eted fun­draiser, and a mem­ber of the Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee.

Re­id and ele­ments of his polit­ic­al op­er­a­tion have a long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Nor­crosses, ex­plain­ing the ma­jor­ity lead­er’s brief mid­sum­mer de­tour from Demo­crats’ all-con­sum­ing ef­forts to keep the Sen­ate this year. “George has stepped up to help Sen­at­or Re­id a few times over the years, and I think this is re­cip­roc­al loy­alty,” said one source close to the South Jer­sey Demo­crat­ic Party ap­par­at­us.

Re­id’s of­fice did not re­spond to ques­tions about the fun­draiser.

George Nor­cross, a wealthy in­sur­ance ex­ec­ut­ive, donated to Re­id’s Sen­ate cam­paign in 2003, ac­cord­ing to fed­er­al re­cords. But their re­la­tion­ship goes bey­ond those $2,000. The two have a friend­ship go­ing back 10 or 15 years, ac­cord­ing to mul­tiple sources, and Re­id has helped Nor­cross’s loc­al party on sev­er­al oc­ca­sions. Ken Shut­tle­worth, a spokes­man for Don­ald Nor­cross’s cam­paign, re­called Re­id ap­pear­ing at a Cam­den County Demo­crat­ic Com­mit­tee fun­draiser some­time between 2007 and 2010. (Don­ald Nor­cross is a co­chair­man of the county party.)

Shut­tle­worth said such celebrity speak­ers — such as Al Gore — are not un­com­mon at those events but that Re­id has fostered a par­tic­u­lar con­nec­tion with his hosts from that oc­ca­sion. “There is a good feel­ing and con­nec­tion between George Nor­cross and Don­ald and Harry Re­id,” Shut­tle­worth said.

Last year’s New Jer­sey elec­tions also high­light a con­nec­tion between Re­id’s polit­ic­al ad­visers and Nor­cross. Former aides to Re­id run a net­work of power­ful su­per PACs; the biggest, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity PAC, is Demo­crats’ prin­cip­al con­duit for out­side money in Sen­ate races. But some of the same people are also in­volved in boost­ing Demo­crat­ic state le­gis­lat­ors via dif­fer­ent groups.

One of them — the stodgily named Fund for Jobs, Growth, and Se­cur­ity — helped New Jer­sey Demo­crats keep con­trol of their state Le­gis­lature in 2013, even as Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Chris Christie won reelec­tion in a land­slide. Susan Mc­Cue, a New Jer­sey nat­ive and a former chief of staff to Re­id who cofoun­ded Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity PAC, ran the New Jer­sey group. JB Po­er­sch, an­oth­er Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity cofounder who ran the Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee for three elec­tion cycles while Re­id led the party, was the group’s treas­urer. And George Nor­cross helped raise funds for it, ac­cord­ing to mul­tiple re­ports.

The New York­er‘s April pro­file of Christie out­lined Nor­cross’s polit­ic­al power in a lengthy aside. Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats alike said that Nor­cross con­trols the state Le­gis­lature.

In oth­er words, this is no nor­mal safe-seat House fun­draiser — and it’s not just be­cause the Sen­ate ma­jor­ity lead­er will be in at­tend­ance.

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