Parties and politicians preparing for the final months of the 2010 election cycle have opened a record number of joint fundraising committees to allow donors to write larger checks than individual campaigns can collect.
Campaigns have filed paperwork for more than 700 such groups since the beginning of 2009 — doubling the number that were active during the 2006 midterm elections, according to a CQ MoneyLine study of Federal Election Commission records.
Joint fundraising committees are separate entities set up by existing committees that allow them to fundraise together at joint events. Usually a campaign is limited to raising a maximum of $2,400 from one donor per election. But joint fundraising committees receive checks that are often in excess of $20,000 at major fundraising events. These large sums of money are pooled together through the committee, then divided among campaigns, parties and even politicians’ political action committees.
“Candidates are under more pressure than ever to raise money, and it may simply be that word is getting around that this is a simple way to do it,” said Paul Ryan, FEC program director and associate legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. “The only thing that a joint fundraising committee allows is for one check to be written instead of multiple checks.”
Under campaign finance laws, federal candidates can set up as many joint fundraising committees as they want. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who is running for re-election this year, has at least three such committees that have collected more than $1 million each.
“It’s kind of like the used-car-lot approach to fundraising,” said a longtime Democratic fundraiser. “You need as many cars out there as possible because you never know which one somebody will buy and take home with them.”
Besides joining with Reid, Boxer has also set up shared committees with the DSCC, the California Democratic Party and Minnesota Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Boxer’s cut from these committees amounted to more than $275,000 last year, a big chunk of which came from two fundraisers headlined by Vice President Joe Biden. Boxer reported having $7.2 million in cash on hand as of Dec. 31, according to her campaign’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.
“It’s efficient for the candidates and efficient for the donors,” said Boxer campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski. “The candidates have very busy schedules, so they look to combine two events into one.”
Back in 2009, NRSC established a joint fundraising committee with Carly Fiorina, which some saw as a quasi-endorsement in the GOP primary.