The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has been campaigning on credit, while the Republican National Committee broke even in the past year.
According to documents released by the Federal Election Commission, the DNC owes more than $4.6 million in debt, while the RNC reported none for 2009.
In the year after the 2004 presidential election, the DNC owed no money, but after amassing a $15 million debt amid the 2008 campaign, the committee has pared the figure down to $4,699,609. The DNC’s current debt is twice the amount recorded in 2007.
The documents showed both national committees with nearly the same amount of cash on hand. The RNC topped the DNC in receipts by $8.7 million, but the Democratic committee has $10 million cash on hand as opposed to their counterparts, who have $9.5 million on hand.
“If you look at it historically, the DNC had a very significant year,” said Hari Sevugan, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. “We have not raised this much in a non-presidential year in a long, long time. We think we are very well-positioned going into 2010.”
Some analysts, too, have downplayed the significance of a party carrying debt.
“I wouldn’t make much of it,” said Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. “Parties always carry debt, and when they want to spend money, they pay it off over time. You’ll see these patterns over time during election years and non-election years.”
According to FEC documents, however, the DNC has carried debt during eight out of the last 10 off-election years, while the RNC has carried debt in only one of those years, 1997.
And then there is the Tea Party movement, which has added another variable to the fundraising process.
“They are self-advertised as being non-partisan and anti-party, so they’re quite individualistic and are very reluctant to contribute money to the Republican Party,” Mann said. “They did mobilize some contributions for Scott Brown, and they could very well do that with other candidates, but they are not, by their own reckoning, a part of the Republican Party.”
The Daily Caller reported Friday that Tea Party activists are using signs and political buttons paid for by the RNC, a sign that the committee may be trying to reach out to the grassroots movement.
As a whole, the three Democratic committees — the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) — reported raising nearly $202 million last year.
The three Republican committees — the Republican National Committee (RNC), the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) — raised $188.7 million combined during the same time frame.
“As we saw in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, voters and donors are actively involved in electing leaders who will stand up against Obama’s big government agenda and we anticipate the enthusiasm and support to continue,” said Katie Wright, spokeswoman for the RNC, in an email to The Daily Caller.
Sevugan said the DNC is gearing up for an intense election year.
“In any election year, we are going to make sure that our candidates have the resources that they need to compete,” Sevugan said. “Our donors all understand the stakes.”