Democrats Have Reason to Celebrate: Hill PAC Is Back

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has returned to electoral politics with full force. The last step in her reengagement -- after her disappointing second-place finish to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the presidential nomination sweepstakes -- was jump-starting her political action committee, Hill PAC.

Clinton did that late last month when she issued the first campaign contributions to congressional Democratic candidates since 2006, cutting $75,000 worth of checks to 14 campaigns for the House and Senate and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to reports filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

Yesterday, Clinton wrote an e-mail pitch for the DSCC that asks donors to help Democrats capture nine seats currently held by the GOP to reach the magic number of 60 seats in the Senate.

"We're throwing everything we've got into making sure [Obama] stands before the nation as a President with the political strength to break the gridlock, get things done, and start progress going in America again. And with a filibuster-proof Senate, we'll be able to bring the change this country so desperately needs," Clinton wrote.

The first recipients of Clinton's PAC donations included several incumbents who are cruising to reelection but were prominent Clinton supporters during the primary campaign, including Reps. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.) and Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.).

Clinton's generosity also extended to several challengers: state Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who is trying to oust Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who is running against Sen. Ted Stevens, and former Hialeah, Fla., mayor Raul Martinez, who is up against Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Hill PAC had been essentially dormant for 2007 and the first half of 2008, while Clinton focused on her own effort to win the presidential nomination. Before then, she used Hill PAC to make donations to key politicians in critical primary states and fund her political travels from 2004 to 2006, when she laid the groundwork for the 2008 campaign.

For those wondering, yes, Clinton did make some donations to candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first battlegrounds in every primary contest. Jeanne Shaheen, the former New Hampshire governor running against Sen. John E. Sununu, and Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) received $5,000 each in late September.

Clinton has now raised more than $1.1 million for Hill PAC since early July, when her longtime friends and supporters started writing checks to reignite her PAC. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who gave $5,000 from her campaign committee, and Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty III, former president Bill Clinton's first White House chief of staff, who personally gave $5,000, were the first new contributors to Hill PAC.

Thrown Overboard

To say things have gone south quickly for Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) could be the understatement of the election season.

Mahoney has gone from a 20-point lead over his GOP challenger, Tom Rooney, to trailing by 26 points in a recent poll commissioned by the National Republican Congressional Committee and Rooney's campaign. This after Mahoney admitted to multiple extramarital affairs and payments to one woman, a former aide. This is not sitting well with constituents who elected Mahoney after his pledge to restore decency and honor to the seat formerly held by Mark Foley, who left office after it was revealed that he had sent lurid messages to congressional pages. Or with Mahoney's wife, who has filed for divorce.

Rooney's campaign won't say how much money the GOP challenger has raised in the wake of the Mahoney adultery scandal, which began with ABC News's report that Mahoney had secretly paid a former aide and mistress $121,000 to prevent a sexual harassment suit. But Mahoney can expect zero help from fellow Democrats in saving his seat.

Which leaves no question that Mahoney is now the most endangered Democratic House incumbent. That isn't exactly a tear-jerker for Mahoney's fellow Democratic freshmen; he hasn't been popular with them, or with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom he regularly lectured at weekly breakfast meetings with Democratic freshmen, according to sources.

Party Time

Democrats are ready to party hard on Election Night. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced yesterday that they will host another joint election watch party, as they did two years ago.

It'll be held at the same place -- the Hyatt Regency Ballroom on Capitol Hill -- with open bars, lots of food and big screens lining the walls.

The party there two years ago attracted a huge crowd of Democratic political operatives, congressional aides and other true believers.

"One of the things we learned in 2006 was that the keys to a successful election are good candidates, record fundraising, a powerful message and holding Election Night at the Hyatt, and since we did the first three right this year, we weren't about to mess with the fourth," said DSCC spokesman Matt Miller.

Perhaps sensing doom and gloom, the House and Senate Republican campaign committees have no real party plans for Election Night. "I'm pretty sure we will be working," says National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain. NRSC spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher said there will be "a gathering here at the NRSC for invited guests."

It may be subdued. But don't worry, weary Republicans, Fisher promises there'll be "lots of booze."

Quote of the Week

"These are unfortunate incidents that do not reflect North Carolina values, much less Southern hospitality."

-- Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), reacting to news that the tires of dozens of cars parked outside an Obama rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Sunday were slashed, and a separate incident in which a woman at a barbecue joint called Obama a "socialist" and refused to shake his hand.

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