Washington – With their party in danger of losing seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, Reps. John Larson and Jim Himes have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars from their leadership PACs into the campaigns of fellow Democrats.
Larson, D-1st District, has donated the most of any member of the House of Representatives from Connecticut, about $230,000 from a leadership PAC, according to the latest filings with the Federal Elections Commission.
About $20,000 from Larson’s Synergy PAC went to Democratic Party organizations, but the rest was given to dozens of candidates, including some Democratic incumbents in tough races, such as Reps. Ron Barber of Arizona, Patrick Murphy of Florida and John Barrow of Georgia.
Some of Larson’s contributions to fellow Democrats were “in kind” donations that paid for the expenses of fundraisers hosted by Larson to benefit colleagues.
Larson was term-limited out of a House Democratic leadership position last year, but continues to serve as a senior adviser to Democratic leaders and has a senior position on the Ways and Means Committee.
“As a leader in the House of Representatives, Congressman Larson continues to help those is close races as well as front line candidates across the nation,” said Larson campaign spokesman Ed Skrowronek.
A leadership PAC is a political action committee that can be established by current and former members of Congress and can be used with greater flexibility than a campaign fund.
“Leadership PACs are designed for two things: to make money and to make friends,” says the Center for Responsive Politics. “In the rough and tumble political game, elected officials know that money and friends in high places are very important to winning elections and leadership positions.”
Himes’s JimPAC donated nearly $170,000 to the campaign of fellow Democrats and party committees.
If Himes wins re-election – he’s running against Republican businessman Dan Debicella – he’s considered a leading candidate to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the next Congress. Current DCCC chairman Rep. Steve Israel, R-N.Y., says he does not want to serve another term.
Others who have been mentioned as possible candidates for the job include Reps. Jared Polis, D-Co., and Donna Edward, D-Md.
Israel said any of the three, who are all involved in the DCCC, would be a good successor.
“Donna Edwards has done an extraordinary job of recruiting. Jared Polis is one of our best fundraisers and just has a real sense of what has to happen in our campaigns. Jim Himes has just crushed it as our national finance chair,” Israel recently told The Hill newspaper.
But ultimately it will be up to the Democratic House leader in the next Congress to make the decision about who will head the DCCC, and that likely will be Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who hasn’t indicated a preference.
Himes is considered an up-and-comer in the Democratic Party. As DCCC finance chairman, Himes helped the organization raise more than $163 million this year, putting it ahead of its GOP rival, the Republican National Campaign Committee which raised about $131 million.
Himes’ campaign declined to address questions about his future in the Democratic Party.
“Jim isn’t focused on that,” said campaign spokeswoman Libby Carlson. “Jim is focused like a laser on serving his constituents and fighting for the transportation and education investments needed to create jobs and strengthen Southwest Connecticut’s economy.”
Tough year for Democrats
On the other end of the spectrum when it comes to donating leadership PAC money to party candidates, are Reps. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District.
Despite raising more than $112,000 in this election cycle, DeLauro’s Committee for a Democratic Future only made three donations, each in the amount of $1,000, to Barber, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a New Hampshire Democrat who is considered extremely vulnerable.
But that does not mean DeLauro did not help fellow Democrats in this tough year for her party, which could lose as many as 12 seats in the House of Representatives. The GOP controls the House now, holding 233 seats to the Democrats’ 199.
The GOP’s grip on the chamber is expected to tighten after Nov. 4 elections.
DeLauro has donated about $531,000 from her personal campaign fund to help House Democrats. Most of that money, about $403,000, went to the DCCC where it will help Democratic candidates indirectly, the rest went to the campaigns of individual candidates.
“(The) Committee for a Democratic Future’s expenses are on par with prior years in terms of candidate contributions,” said DeLauro campaign spokesman Jimmy Tickey. “The campaign – Friends of Rosa DeLauro – has always contributed to the party (DCCC) as well as candidates in Connecticut and across the country.”
Courtney’s Husky PAC raised $96,000 and donated $91,300. Only about $35,000 went directly to candidates, with the balance going to the DCCC.
Esty, who is serving her first term in the House of Representatives, does not have a leadership PAC.