Jefferson, Doolittle Face Major Cash Crunch
The two House members facing the most difficult legal challenges have almost hit political bankruptcy, with neither lawmaker raising much money last quarter and both sitting on large debts.
Reps. William Jefferson (D-La.), indicted last spring on dozens of counts of corruption and influence peddling, and John Doolittle (D-Calif.), facing a deepening investigation into his financial ties to imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff, continue to maintain their intention to run for re-election next year despite their legal challenges. But the latest fund-raising reports show that each lawmaker is facing growing financial challenges that make a campaign particularly difficult.
Let's first look at Jefferson's cash crunch. As of Sept. 30, Jefferson had $32,970 left in his campaign account. Worst of all, he had more than $260,000 in debts still outstanding. About 75 percent of the debt is from loans out of his own pocket to pay campaign costs in 2006, while a large chunk of the remaining debt is with banks and credit cards.
So Jefferson effectively has a negative campaign cash balance. And, since his June 4 indictment, the New Orleans lawmaker has received just one contribution from an individual donor, $150 from a teacher. From July through September, Jefferson received just $15,450 in total donations, almost all of it from campaign accounts of fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
If not for House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who gave $10,000 to Jefferson, the lawmaker would have raised barely $5,000. [When it was revealed that the FBI found $90,000 in cash in Jefferson's refrigerator, he was forced off of the Ways and Means Committee last year, before his indictment, a move that infuriated some members of the CBC.]
Doolittle's situation is not much better. With at least nine current and former staffers who have been interviewed or who have testified before a federal grand jury about his Abramoff connections, Doolittle is facing increasing pressure to not run for re-election. The Fix now rates his seat the most likely to change parties so long as Doolittle is the nominee. And last month a pair of House GOP leaders told Capitol Briefing that they were not willing to endorse Doolittle.
With so little outward support, Doolittle raised just $50,000 in the 3rd quarter, leaving him with $37,995 cash on hand. But he had another $34,759 in debt, almost all of it to the firm run by his wife, Julie Doolittle. She used to be his primary fundraiser, taking a 15% cut for all dollars raised, but the lawmaker ended that practice after barely surviving his re-election last year when he faced questions about the propriety of the arrangement.
But the 2006 campaign ended with Julie Doolittle's Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions being owed more than $130,000; so this year the congressman has been shelling out thousands of dollars a month to pay off debts to his wife for work she performed last year. In the 3rd quarter, for example, while he raised just $50,000, he paid $45,000 to his wife's firm to pay down the debt to her.
Like Jefferson, with his Rangel contributions, Doolittle also received a parting gift from the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee -- which Doolittle was pushed off of last spring after the FBI raided his Virginia home. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) contributed $2,000 to Doolittle's campaign. Otherwise, he received very little institutional support from the financial networks he tapped so well in the 2006 campaign cycle, when he raised and spent more than $2.3 million to defeat Democrat Charlie Brown.
Brown, who is running again in 2008, had $383,000 cash on hand at the end of September, a better than 10-1 ratio compared to Doolittle.
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