House GOP Freshmen Pressured To Raise Cash The huge House GOP freshman class that swept into office in 2010 faces its first re-election challenge next year, one that at least some of them may not be able to meet. New fundraising figures show that many freshmen have relatively low campaign bank balances heading into the election year.
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House GOP Freshmen Face Pressure To Raise Cash

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House GOP Freshmen Face Pressure To Raise Cash

House GOP Freshmen Face Pressure To Raise Cash

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block. If the flow of money powers political campaigns, then Republicans are not winning the race - at least for now. That's according to new financial reports released by members of Congress and the party committees that help get them re-elected. Analysts say the GOP's majority should give it a fundraising advantage, but last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised almost double what its Republican counterpart pulled in. As NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports, one particular group of Republicans is having a tough time: the huge class of freshmen, who took 2010 by storm.

ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: It's not popular, and politicians hate to talk about it, but a huge part of the job of being a member of Congress is raising money. By Washington logic, the strength of a lawmaker's bank account is equal to the strength of his or her candidacy. So when a freshman Republican's numbers come out and they don't look too hot, he or she has to answer to her party.

REP. RENEE ELLMERS: Well, you know, I did have a slow third quarter. I definitely could have done better.

SEABROOK: North Carolina's Renee Ellmers. For the months of July, August and September, she raised roughly $97,000.

ELLMERS: It wasn't as high a priority for me. I will say that my fourth quarter will be much better though.

SEABROOK: You're working it?

ELLMERS: I have to work it. I have to work it.

SEABROOK: Ellmers says she's gotten a lot of advice in the week since her numbers came out - mentors, she says, explaining to her that she has to work much harder.

REP. STEVE SOUTHERLAND: That's quickly one of the things that I noticed when I got here.

SEABROOK: Florida Republican Steve Southerland raised about $85,000 last quarter.

SOUTHERNLAND: You do have to spend time to generate revenue.

SEABROOK: Another GOP freshman, Tennessee's Scott DesJarlais, did a little better. He broke six figures with about $117,000. But, he says, it was a pain.

REP. SCOTT DESJARLAIS: The two-year cycle is very difficult and I have never been in politics before. I'm a family physician by trade, so it, it's an ongoing, I guess, necessary part of the job, but I wish there was a better solution.

SEABROOK: DesJarlais says he's not the only one. Among his freshman Republican colleagues, he says...

DESJARLAIS: Most people would say that it's the worst part of the job.

SEABROOK: And it seems like these days, you have to do it all the time.

DESJARLAIS: You do, and it's obviously tough economic times. And, you know, moving into the Christmas season, you know, people are hoping to buy their kids presents, not give money to politicians who generally they're unhappy with.

SEABROOK: Many freshman Republicans say the same things: It's a necessary evil, I wish I didn't have to do it so much. But the pressure is on.


SEABROOK: This is a Web video welcoming donors to the website of the committee in charge of getting Republican House members re-elected.


SEABROOK: The Patriot Program, as Republicans call it, helps incumbents and GOP challengers build fundraising organizations. It sets dollar goals, benchmarks and, as co-chair Greg Walden calls it, accountability.


SEABROOK: All of this means pressure: Pressure to keep the accounts flush with cash on hand, and pressure to keep the flow of incoming money consistent.

REP. JOE WALSH: It's a battle for dollars.

SEABROOK: Republican Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois. He says one of the reasons the numbers don't look so good is that Republicans are actually competing against each other to the same dollars.

WALSH: You compete for different money up here. There's competition because we got a lot of presidential nominees out there trying to run for president, so I think on the Republican side there's other factors in play.

SEABROOK: There's also a group of freshmen who seem to be rebelling against the fundraising pressure, like Rob Woodall of Georgia. He says he's approaching this with a totally different premise.

REP. ROB WOODALL: That if you do the right thing today and then you show up tomorrow and do the right thing tomorrow and do the right thing again the next day, maybe you don't need to raise all that money to persuade people you're doing a good job, maybe folks will see that you're actually doing that good job.

SEABROOK: At least that's what he hopes. Other Republicans say they're stepping up their game so the next fundraising numbers don't look so weak. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.

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