With democracy in balance, safe House Democrats hold back $200M+ in campaign cash
Editor’s note: This is the latest installment in our long-running Shame of Our Campaigns series. Also see end of article for two updates to this piece about Rep. Schiff’s continued use of deceptive fundraising emails.
The political fundraising email in my inbox began with generic urgency. “Friend, you know the facts of this midterm election. You know the stakes,” and then it cited a “most important” fast-approaching FEC reporting deadline. As political fundraising pitches go, pretty standard stuff that could come from any member of Congress or Donald Trump.
It ended more specifically asking to join “this historic defense of our Democratic majorities” and linking to the campaign donation page of U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-D). And it was this mention of Schiff that truly caught my eye. That’s because – probably unbeknownst to most recipients of the email – Schiff began the 2022 third quarter with more cash on hand than any House Democrat ($19 million) and is unlikely to spend much of it in “defense” of his own safely Democratic seat or to help his party prevail in the nail-biting fight for the U.S. House.
Thus any Democratic donors who “know the stakes” of this midterms would do better giving to many other Democratic House candidates other than Schiff.
But Schiff’s hardly alone in this respect. Even Republicans are criticizing Trump for hoarding most of the $99 million in his “Save America” PAC while his personally chosen Senate candidates struggle. Schiff is also among scores of Democrats in safe House seats who collectively have sidelined more than $200 million in their campaign war chests while begging everyone else to give more.
According to Cook Political Report ratings, 140 Democratic House incumbents are running for re-election in very safe districts. Collectively these 140 began Q3 sitting on $224 million cash on hand, with just under half (69) holding a cool $1 million or more. Both of these figures will certainly rise in coming weeks as final Q3 fundraising numbers are filed with the Federal Election Commission.
For our California readers, this includes 34 Democrats in the California House delegation who sit on $74 million combined. Four of these are among the top 10 nationally as noted in the chart below.
This is happening while these same Democratic incumbents tell voters that our very democracy is on the ballot. As are women’s reproductive freedom, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, and combatting climate catastrophe.
The situation so annoyed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi she recently chided a gathering of her fellow House Democrats. As reported by Punchbowl.News, “Pelosi, who has raised more than $200 million directly to the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] so far this cycle, told lawmakers she was ‘mystified’ that so many of her Democratic colleagues were sitting on huge sums of cash in their campaign coffers.”
Pelosi’s worries were underscored by NBCNews.com’s report Friday that in eight of the most closely watched competitive House races, Republicans have reserved more TV ad time for the rest of the election than Democrats in all but one race. Republican ad spending in these races totaled $45.4 million through Election Day to Democrats’ combined $35.5 million, for a 28% advantage.
Atop NBC’s list was the 22nd District in Schiff’s home state of California. This is where Central Valley Republican David Valadao won back his seat in 2020 by just 1,522 votes, and his campaign, GOP PACs and GOP SuperPACs have reportedly reserved $8.5 million in future ads as compared to $3.9 million by and for his Democratic opponent State Assemblyman Rudy Salas.
Such disparities are striking when so many safe Democrats sit on so much. This is not to say all are ding nothing to help in the midterms. In Schiff’s case, a source familiar with his fundraising noted to SactoPolitico that balanced against Schiff’s $19 million in cash on hand should be $11 million he’s separately raised or given to other Democrats and the DCCC this election cycle. This includes from his campaign account and leadership PAC and in helping directly fundraise for those candidates.
According to the source, he “worked relentlessly to protect the House Democratic majority by traveling the country to campaign and fundraise for his colleagues and Democratic candidates.” He has appeared at or is scheduled to be a special guest or campaigner at more than 130 events across the country this cycle. According to a DCCC spreadsheet that Punchbowl.News published Monday, Schiff’s efforts rank him as the third-highest fundraiser among House Democrats after Pelosi and New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney who chairs the DCCC. These efforts are also in keeping with reports that Schiff is seeking to succeed Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker if she retires after this session.
Which makes it all the more curious that $19 million Schiff is holding back. After all, if the Democrats fail to retain the House by just a few narrowly lost seats, then Democrats like Schiff in safe seats who held back millions of campaign dollars could be blamed.
To a degree, the same can be said for Schiff’s most likely rival to lead the House Democrats if Pelosi steps down: New York’s Hakeem Jeffries. His fundraising for the Democrats ranks him ninth in House. He also represents a safe district and started 2022 Q2 sitting $2.8 million unspent war chest.
So if Schiff, Jeffries and those 138 other safe House Democrats really believe so much hangs in the balance this election, an easier way to raise late cash for their cause exists. Just heed the New Testament admonishment: “To whom much is given, much is required.”
10/9/22 update: Following publication of this article on Oct. 6, Rep. Schiff’s campaign committee issued at least two more deceptive fundraising emails suggesting donating to his campaign account will help Democrats win in other House districts. Below is the email appeal issued earlier today.
Today’s email was titled “30 ‘Toss Up’ House Races,” and the text strongly suggested donating through the button link would help beyond Adam Schiff’s very safe House district. But when you click the button link, the donation page makes clear “Your contribution will benefit Adam Schiff.”
10/15/22 update: Rep. Adam Schiff’s Q3 2022 FEC filings are in. They show he raised $4.25 million in the quarter for his campaign account and leadership PAC. However, he gave just 15% to other Democrats and the DCCC. Thus his cash on hand in his war chest rose from $19 million to $21 million. And his deceptive fundraising messages for his own campaign continued on Friday with this email solicitation: