POLITICS
02/20/2018 06:00 EST

House Democrats Just Had Their Best Ever January Fundraising Haul

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $9.3 million.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Tuesday that it had raised $9.3 million last month, the largest ever January haul for the campaign arm of House Democrats.

Of that total, the DCCC raised $3.4 million online in average donations of $18, a figure that points to enthusiasm among grassroots activists in addition to well-heeled donors.

The January numbers reinforce early signs of Democratic excitement that bode well for the party’s performance in November’s midterm elections.

“Our long run of record-breaking fundraising has been fueled by an energized and motivated grassroots base that is working every day to take back the House,” Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chairman of the DCCC, said in a statement. “The huge size of the House battlefield, combined with incredible candidate recruitment and candidate fundraising, is spreading vulnerable Republicans thin and forcing them to fight for every inch.”

The DCCC’s January fundraising total increases its cash on hand to $43.8 million, compared with $33.2 million it had at this time in 2016.

But the party has a tough task ahead if it hopes to flip the 24 GOP-held seats needed to take back the House of Representatives.

The DCCC, buoyed by voter discontent with President Donald Trump and a slew of Republican retirements, is casting a large net. The campaign arm announced earlier this month that it is investing in races in 101 GOP-held districts, including once-safe Republican areas like South Carolina’s 5th district.

Tom Williams/Getty Images
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, touted the group's January fundraising numbers.

For its part, the National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to elect House Republicans, raised record money in an off year in 2017. The total gave it $43.6 million in cash on hand as of the end of December, which at the time was more than the DCCC had.

But as Bloomberg reported, a sizable share of the NRCC’s donations came in the form of large checks not subject to the same contribution limits. These donations, which reach as high as $101,700 a piece, cannot be used toward federal elections. As a result, the NRCC had $20 million in cash that could not be used for electoral purposes.

Republicans still enjoy the support of super PACs and other outside groups that can fill gaps left by party fundraising. These outside groups potentially have the power to fundamentally alter the dynamics of key House races.

One such contest is the March 13 special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, which Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points but where Democrats are putting up a serious fight. Democrat Conor Lamb has proven a more adept fundraiser than Republican Rick Saccone, but the latter has benefitted from the largesse of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC associated with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and Ending Spending, another outside conservative group.

DCCC chairman Luján acknowledged this factor in his statement celebrating the January fundraising numbers.

“We’ll need every penny in the face of an unprecedented flood of outside Republican money, and there’s certainly more work to do,” Luján said.

The Special Election for Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District