top of page

It's Still Rahm Emanuel's Anti-Progressive, Shortsighted And Highly Incompetent DCCC

I’ve been following the DCCC closely since Rahm Emanuel was given the chairmanship in 2005 when Bob Matsui suddenly died of pneumonia. In his highly acclaimed 2015 look at Emanuel’s career, The Sudden But Well-Deserved Fall Of Rahm Emanuel, Chicago based historian Rick Perlstein wrote that “At the D-Trip… Emanuel aggressively recruited right-leaning candidates, frequently military veterans, including former Republicans. But many of his hand-picked choices fared poorly, losing in general elections. Some even lost in their primaries, to candidates backed by liberals— many of whom won congressional seats resoundingly, even after the DCCC abandoned them. Victory, like defeat, can have a hundred fathers, and we can’t know what was ultimately responsible for the Democrats’ success that November. Anger at Republicans for the Iraq War (which Emanuel supported) certainly drove many voters’ decisions. What is indisputable is that the 2006 majority proved to be a rickety one. Critics argue that, even where Emanuel’s strategy succeeded in the short term, it undermined the party over time. One of his winners, the football star Heath Shuler, of North Carolina, would not even commit to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House, and was one of many Rahm recruits to vote against important Obama Administration priorities, like economic stimulus, banking reform, and health care. Many are no longer congressmen. Some Democrats now argue that, in the long run, 2006 might have weakened the Party more than it strengthened it. ‘Rahm’s recruitment strategy’ was ‘catastrophic,’ the retired record executive Howie Klein, who helps run a political action committee that funds liberal congressional challengers, said, and it contributed to the massive GOP majorities we have now, the biggest since the nineteen-twenties.”

Almost a decade later, the DCCC is, if anything, worse than ever, with one Emanuel-clone after another running the place. No one can definitively say who’s been the worst between chairs Steve Israel, Cheri Bustos and the current schlemiel, Sean Patrick Maloney. What anyone who keeps on eye on the committee can tell you though, is that Maloney’s chief of staff, Tim Persico (now DCCC executive director), has put together the worst staff in DCCC history— well-matched to the team Maloney put together to oversee it, including career criminal Ami Bera.

This morning the PunchBowl crew focused on the DCCC in a way the media never does, noting that Pelosi was whining at a closed door House Democratic meeting Wednesday that members aren’t paying their DCCC dues and that institutional donors have been asking her why. Pelosi told the caucus that “it doesn’t send a good message to donors if members aren’t doing their part to keep the House majority.” Many members believe there are much better ways to keep the House majority than to waste it on the incompetent Maloney and Persico.

“Dues assessments,” explained Punchbowl, “are based on a variety of factors. Committee assignments are a big part, with seats on high-profile committees such as Energy and Commerce or Ways and Means leading to costlier assessments. Whether a member is a subcommittee or full committee chair, or if they’re in a leadership position, has an impact. The higher up you are, the more you owe. The statistics are surprising, to say the least. Ninety-eight House Democrats have paid less than half of their dues. Even worse, this doesn’t include Frontliners, who are essentially exempt from funding the DCCC because they need that money for their own races.”

[L]awamakers on both sides of the aisle see diminishing returns contributing to party committees. They have no control over how the money is spent and oftentimes disagree with strategic decisions and priorities. It doesn’t help that DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney has been a lightning rod for controversy this Congress.
As of July 31, the DCCC has raised more than $252 million this cycle, with more than $118 million in cash on hand, according to its FEC report. However, the committee has already reserved tens of millions of dollars in TV ads, with every vulnerable incumbent clamoring for more help as Pelosi and Democratic leaders defend their razor-thin majority.
The rise of super PACs has also made dues-paying more problematic. These groups, funded by mega-wealthy donors, can dump millions into the late stages of a race. That makes many members more wary of parting with campaign donations.

Punchbowl interviewed several members who “owe” the DCCC dues, like conservative and failed ex-chair Cheri Bustos, who is now retiring from Congress but hasn’t given the DCCC a nickel. She says she’s contributing in other ways, just not through the DCCC— ironic since she was so key in making the DCCC so much less effective and so much more horrible.

Many progressives are pissed off because they’re aware of the anti-progressive bias in the DCCC. AOC, “who has north of $6 million in the bank, hasn’t given a dime to the committee. The DCCC has her down for having raised $1,000 for the committee and $145,000 raised or given to ‘Red-to-Blue’ candidates and Frontliners. ‘I’ve contributed at the beginning of the term by essentially providing over a quarter million in direct donations. It’s been kind of documented, but I try not to put grassroots money and commingle it with big money.’ In other words, AOC doesn’t like how the DCCC raises money– from lobbyists, corporate executives and the like– so count her out. AOC also didn’t like how [Maloney] decided to run in Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones’ district following New York’s chaotic redistricting process. She endorsed SPM’s primary opponent (who lost, of course.) Jones was defeated handily by Dan Goldman, the former Trump impeachment counsel who put $4 million from his own pocket into the race.”

The district Maloney stole from Mondaire Jones (NY-17) was redrawn from one with a strongly Democratic partisan lean (D+17) to one with a D+7 lean, but a new poll from a Republican firm shows that the carpetbagging Maloney could lose the seat to Republican Assemblyman Mike Lawler. The poll has Lawler leading him 49-45%.

Ilhan is another stalwart progressive who is ignoring the DCCC and not giving them any of the money she collects from grassroots donors. The best way to solve the festering and worsening DCCC problem would be to elect a well-liked progressive as chair, homelike like Ted Lieu (CA) or Joe Neguse (CO).

bottom of page