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Published — October 15, 2013 Updated — May 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm ET

Political fundraising boosted by shutdown, default

Democrats and Republicans using government chaos to plead for campaign cash


Republicans and Democrats just might — maybe, possibly — be scratching their way toward a compromise that would end the nation’s government shutdown and avoid defaulting on federal debt.

But as both sides negotiate atop Capitol Hill to reopen federal offices that’ve been closed for more than two weeks, politicos are trying to score every last partisan point — and suck in every last political dollar — by blasting their across-the-aisle adversaries and flooding supporters with hysterical, shutdown-centric fundraising pleas.

Such activity illustrates how political fundraising machines, regardless of the issues or stakes at hand, rarely pause in an age when the next election season begins as soon as the previous one ends.

Among the more notable messages as the nation hurdles toward Thursday’s debt ceiling deadline:

  • National Republican Senatorial Committee Digital Director Daniel Huey poses this rhetorical question: “This time of year is full of scary costumes: ghosts, goblins, vampires. But you know what’s truly frightening? President Obama and Harry Reid’s big government agenda.” He then peddles spooky NRSC t-shirts for $30 a pop, with the proceeds benefiting the committee. In a separate NRSC fundraising email, committee official Brad Dayspring writes: “President Obama and the Democrats’ refusal to work out a compromise reveals them as inflexible, unreasonable obstructionists. Americans are fed up with the dysfunction in Washington, and the Democrats’ actions continue to show that they’re the reason for it.”
  • Former President Bill Clinton, in a bid to promote Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and fill the Democratic National Committee‘s coffer, laments the nation’s “unnecessary and damaging government shutdown.” After taking multiple swipes at McAuliffe opponent Ken Cuccinelli, Clinton continues: “Please chip in $3 or more to help us work for Terry McAuliffe and Democrats around the country.” In a separate email, Democratic operative James Carville chides Cuccinelli for conducting rallies with prominent Republicans. “Ted Cruz showed up too, in the middle of the government shutdown he created,” Carville writes before upping the ante a couple of bucks and telling backers to, “Chip in $5 right now to help Terry.”
  • Cuccinelli personally replied to Clinton’s volley in a message titled “2016: Hillary Clinton Wins Virginia.” He describes his own victory as important “not only for the future of our great Commonwealth, but also for the future of the Republican Party and conservatives around the country.” Cuccinelli adds: “Don’t be fooled by the Clinton’s — they know how to play the political game, and they’re hoping Terry will be elected so they can use Virginia as a springboard for Hillary’s Presidential run in 2016.” Cuccinelli, too, asks for a cash infusion.
  • President Barack Obama’s nonprofit lobbying group, Organizing for Action, today laid blame for the government shutdown squarely on House Speaker John Boehner. “I’ll be honest: I don’t know what it’ll take to finally get [House Speaker] John Boehner to stand up to the Tea Party Republicans and do the right thing,” OFA Executive Director Jon Carson writes. His missive ends with the message: “The other side will spend millions to maintain the status quo. We’re fighting for change — chip in $5 or more to support OFA today.”
  • The Republican National Committee chose to hammer Obama on the Affordable Care Act, which the GOP has sought to either kill or delay as part of the nation’s government funding equation. “The ObamaCare rollout is a failure,” RNC Deputy Communications Director Sarah Isgur Flores begins. “Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius and President Obama repeatedly ignored the fundamental flaws of ObamaCare and the $400 million website that is a waste of our tax dollars.” At the end of the message: a large, green button with the word “contribute.”
  • In bold-faced text, Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC writes: “Breaking: Just three days until we hit the debt celling [sic] and Tea Party Republicans are still throwing a temper tantrum.” ‎Digital Communications Manager Chuck Engel continues: “If the Tea Party doesn’t see reality and stop living in their own version of la la land, the US and WORLD economies will suffer — and we’d face untold economic calamities.” The message urges people to offer up their email addresses and Zip codes to “sign” a petition. Doing so leads to a donation page.
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is putting forth a similar strategy. “Stand with us against the Republican government shutdown, and call out Ted Cruz and John Boehner for their radical obstructionism,” it writes before also directing supporters to “sign” a petition that leads to an online donation form. Doing so generates an automatic email with an unflattering photo of Boehner and directions to sign yet another petition. Signing that one also leads to a donation page. Not to miss a chance to also type “BREAKING” in a subject line, the DCCC fired off a subsequent message and got straight to its point: “We must raise $500,000 IMMEDIATELY to take on vulnerable Republicans sitting in swing districts — and force them to back away from these over-the-top Tea Party demands.”
  • The National Republican Congressional Committee is asking for supporters’ input for a “State of the Nation” survey. “This is a special project of the National Republican Congressional Committee and you are one of only few dedicated Republicans selected to take part,” Chairman Greg Walden writes. “Your answers to this questionnaire will help shape and guide our Conservative House Majority’s approach to dismantling the liberal agenda of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.” Then he asks for cash, earmarking it for a rather specific purpose. “If you can’t complete the survey at this time, help us with the costs of processing it by donating $5. This will go a long way to ensuring we spend all available funds attacking Democrats.”

Read more in Money and Democracy

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