DNC Reeling After Inner Party Crisis Revealed.
The Democratic National Committee is reeling, facing a turnaround that's proving a much bigger lift than anyone expected as it struggles to raise enough money to cover its basic promises.
Many donors are refusing to write checks. And on-the-ground operatives worry they won’t have the resources to build the infrastructure they need to compete effectively in next year’s midterms and in the run-up to 2020.
Here in the halls of Bally's hotel and casino for the DNC's fall meeting through the weekend, state committee chairs and operatives echoed a now-common concern among donors and strategists: The DNC's recovery is still a ways away, and that could have serious repercussions for the party in the coming years.
"Donors, small and large, are so over the party," said Nebraska party chair Jane Kleeb, summing up the problem facing DNC chairman Tom Perez and his counterparts in the states. Kleeb, who is working on grass-roots fundraising efforts for the committee, said she believes the money will come eventually.
"Everybody thinks that some magic three-page document and some magic tagline is going to turn everything around for us," she added. "But this is very typical work."
But the DNC reboot under Perez, the former Labor Department secretary who took over the committee in late February, has taken longer than anticipated, in part because of the sheer scale of the undertaking, said a range of party operatives, donors, and elected officials.
"It's a very legitimate concern," said one DNC member who has spent years raising money for the committee.
The financial challenges reflect a broader struggle at a committee led by a chairman who is new to party politics — and on a steep learning curve at a time when national Democrats are still searching for an identity after a historic loss. And it's not just donors who are staying away as the Perez-led group promises an expansive set of new investments and innovations. The party's old leaders, led by former President Barack Obama, have kept their involvement to a minimum, as well.
So with 2018's midterms presenting a clear opportunity for Democrats to leap forward, the worry is that they simply may not be prepared in time. While the House and Senate Democratic campaign arms — and individual candidates — are having no problem raising funds, the comparatively anemic cash flow at the central committee and state branches could affect organizing efforts on the ground across the country.
Much of the immediate anxiety centers on the State Party Innovation Fund, a planned $10.5 million competitive grant program that DNC leadership has made available to interested state parties over the next year. The money is meant to pay for organizing, ground operations and other mechanics seen as essential to countering Republican National Committee investments that helped elect Donald Trump and a slew of other other Republican candidates in 2016, leapfrogging Democrats in the process.
The planned funding is on top of the $10,000 each state party receives from the DNC every month.
But entering October, the DNC had just $7 million in its main account, which also has to cover its central responsibilities and salaries.
Financial concerns underpinned side conversations over the four-day meeting here, and officials repeatedly alluded to the committee's fundraising troubles in formal sessions.
"We're all aware the money is not flowing in the way we hoped it would," said longtime DNC member Alice Germond, a former secretary of the committee. The abundance of new resistance-minded groups asking for cash from donors "has been pretty overwhelming, and a newer phenomenon," she said, and it represents "competition for the party."
Top DNC finance officials painted an optimistic picture during an executive committee meeting on Friday, but still acknowledged the concerns.