REFILE-Democrats add aggressively to 2010 election coffers

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* House Democrats raising funds as tough contest looms

* Some Senate Democrats lag main rivals in fundraising

* Analysts watch for signs of donors’ partisan preferences

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, April 18 (BestGrowthStock) – Congressional Democrats
facing competitive re-election bids added aggressively to their
financial war chests in early 2010, girding themselves for an
expected onslaught from Republicans and special-interest
groups, analysts and official documents said.

In the House of Representatives, some freshman Democrats
targeted by Republicans for their support for healthcare reform
ended the first quarter with cash reserves at or near the $1.4
million mark that was the average price tag for a House seat in
2008, Federal Election Commission disclosure documents showed.

Rep. Tom Perriello of Virginia raised $587,000 to end the
January-March period with $1.4 million in cash, while fellow
freshman Rep. Betsy Markey of Colorado built up a $1.3 million
war chest by collecting just over $500,000 from donors.

In the Senate, vulnerable Democrats ended the quarter with
huge cash reserves, some approaching $10 million.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whom Republicans have
vowed to oust from office, ended the first quarter with $9.4
million in cash on hand after raising $1.8 million — more than
three times as much as his closest would-be Republican rival.

Democrats Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Arlen Specter of
Pennsylvania both fell behind their rivals in fundraising but
retained much larger cash reserves.

FEC disclosure data released late last week provide a
snapshot of campaign fundraising as House and Senate races
approach primary elections that will choose each party’s
nominees and set the stage for the November general election
battle for Congress.

HIGH-SPENDING RACES

“What we seeing are incumbents, particularly on the
Democratic side in the House, expecting a difficult election
season. Therefore, they’ve put a premium on early fundraising,”
said Anthony Corrado of Colby College in Maine, a leading
expert on political finance.

“There’s a push to build up war chests either to discourage
challengers or at least be in a position to be able to match
the type of high-spending race they expect in the fall.”

All 435 members of the House and one-third of the 100-seat
Senate are up for re-election this year.

Republicans hope to make gains in both the House and Senate
in part by capitalizing on anti-incumbent voter sentiment in
competitive congressional districts represented by Democratic
lawmakers.

Analysts say Democrats could also be the main targets of a
potential surge in special-interest money sparked by a U.S.
Supreme Court ruling that allows companies and unions to
finance campaigns that favor or oppose specific candidates.

Democrats could be most vulnerable in the House, where
Republicans need to pick up about 40 seats to win control of
the chamber. Fifty-nine Democrats face competitive races there,
according to the Cook Political Report.

Meanwhile, Republicans have six vulnerable incumbents,
according to Cook. But vulnerable Republicans appear to have
built up less of a fund-raising advantage so far. In
Pennsylvania, Republican Jim Gerlach raised over $500,000 to
end the first-quarter with $336,000 in cash, while Democrat
Douglas Pike raised less but had a cash reserve of $1.2
million.

“Fundraising by Democrats is like putting plywood over the
windows of your house because you know a big hurricane’s
coming. Republicans think they’re going to be in the eye of the
storm,” said Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise
Institute.

Embattled Republican Senator Robert Bennett of Utah, who
faces strong opposition from his own party and conservative Tea
Party activists, raised $739,000 in the first quarter. That
gave him a cash war chest of $1.1 million. Overall, Bennett has
raised about $2.7 million in the current election cycle so
far.

Analysts have begun combing through the campaign finance
data for any sign that corporate donors may be shifting away
from Democrats in response to Obama’s healthcare reform and
prospects for new financial and climate change regulations.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog
group that tracks money in politics, says Democrats received
about 57 percent of all campaign donations in the current
election cycle as of Dec. 31. By contrast, Republicans claimed
about 62 percent of campaign donations just before they lost
control of Congress in 2006.
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(Editing by Eric Walsh)

REFILE-Democrats add aggressively to 2010 election coffers