In recent days, media figures have repeated the baseless claim that Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean is not an effective fund-raiser. These claims echo an assertion in a June 6 BusinessWeek article that misleadingly compared DNC fund-raising with money that the Republican National Committee (RNC) has raised this year. But a more relevant metric of fund-raising by the Dean-led DNC -- a comparison of this year's receipts with receipts in 2003 and 2001, the most recent election off-years -- proves that Dean's fund-raising efforts have surpassed those of his predecessor.
Following are examples of cable news hosts and reporters drawing attention to Dean's alleged fund-raising woes:
- In response to former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller's (D-GA) comment that Dean "only raised about half the amount of money last quarter that the Republicans raised," Fox News host Sean Hannity stated that former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe "raised a boatload of money for the Democratic Party." He then added: "That seems to now be going south." [Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, 6/6/05]
- CNN host Lou Dobbs referred to "the slow pace of [Dean's] fund-raising for the Democrats." [CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/6/05]
- Fox News reporter Kelly Wright cited a June 4 report by the right-wing news website NewsMax.com that "Howard Dean may be out at the DNC" due to "a woeful job of fund-raising for the party." [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 6/6/05]
- MSNBC host Monica Crowley asserted that "when the Democrats chose Howard Dean to be the leader of their party, they thought he'd energize the base, they thought he would raise a lot of money. And in fact, he's done neither." She later said: "According to the Federal Election Commission, the DNC raised $14.1 million in the first quarter of this year versus the Republican National Committee's $32.3 million bucks. Bottom line here: under Dean's tutelage the Republicans have $26.2 million in the bank versus a paltry $7.2 million for the Democrats. If he can't raise money, which is essentially why he was hired, can he survive much longer?" [MSNBC's Connected: Coast-to-Coast, 6/7/05]
In fact, Dean raised $14.8 million between February and April 2005 (the latest data available), compared with the DNC's $8.5 million during that period in 2003, the previous non-election year, and compared with the DNC's $13.7 million in so-called "hard money" raised in the first six months of 2001. (It should be noted that since 2001, the contribution limits to national parties have increased as a result of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.)
Moreover, the DNC has raised more in comparison to the RNC over the past three months than it did during 2003. The RNC raised $32.4 million between February and April, about 2.2 times the rate of the Democrats, as Media Matters for America noted; over the same period in 2003, the RNC raised $25.7 million, more than three times the rate of the DNC. Media Matters compiled statistics from February through April, rather than the first-quarter statistics that BusinessWeek used, because Dean did not assume leadership of the DNC until February 12.
In addition, Crowley's comparison of the parties' cash-on-hand totals distorted the current state of Democratic party finances. She failed to note that the "$7.2 million for the Democrats" is nearly double the $3.9 million the DNC had on hand at the end of the first quarter of 2003.
Both Crowley and NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell also misleadingly reported that large contributions to the DNC are on the decline as the result of Dean's leadership. On the May 6 edition of NBC Nightly News, Mitchell stated, "Big contributions are way down, even for a non-election year." On the May 7 edition of MSNBC's Connected: Coast to Coast, Crowley repeated the claim in a report on Dean's chairmanship. "Big contributions are down," she stated. "Way down." But Crowley and Mitchell's focus only on big donors falsely suggests that overall Democratic fund-raising has declined.