Monday, October 24, 2016

Black Democrats to Hillary Clinton: Send Money to Take Congress
New York Times
OCT. 24, 2016

Hillary Clinton with Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina last month. Mr. Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, called on Mrs. Clinton to help fund voter turnout efforts in congressional races. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — She holds a commanding lead in the presidential race and has $150 million in her campaign treasury, but some leading Democrats are urging Hillary Clinton to use more of that money to win control of Congress, publicly revealing a crack in party unity with racial overtones that could have lasting consequences if she is elected.

In interviews, two senior African-American members of the House called on Mrs. Clinton to draw from her war chest to fund voter-turnout efforts in congressional races, warning that even if she handily defeats Donald J. Trump, her presidential agenda will be stymied unless she sweeps in new Democratic lawmakers with her.

At issue is a strategic choice with profound implications: Should Mrs. Clinton reach to defeat Mr. Trump in more states like Utah? Or should she instead divert some of her resources to Democrats who are battling in tight races in liberal states like New York and centrist states like Colorado, where she is assured of victory, or in Republican-leaning states like Indiana and Missouri that she has effectively written off?

As Mrs. Clinton confidently expands her campaign into conservative-leaning states, she should make the knife’s-edge fight for the Senate and the Democratic effort to cut into the Republicans’ House majority a priority, said the lawmakers, Representatives James E. Clyburn of South Carolina and G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina.

“She may be in a good place, but I don’t think the party is in a good place yet,” said Mr. Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat.

Mr. Butterfield, noting that the party’s “down-ballot races are not as comfortable as the presidential race,” added: “I’m concerned about the African-American vote. We’ve got to get a turnout in the African-American community that equals or surpasses the white turnout.”

Mr. Clyburn and Mr. Butterfield, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said they had taken their pleas in recent days to senior officials in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and received respectful hearings but no firm commitments.

While both congressmen said they applauded their nominee’s effort to expand the presidential map, their lobbying effort highlights the competing pressures Mrs. Clinton faces in the campaign’s final weeks.

Many of her closest advisers want to humiliate Mr. Trump by aggressively competing in Republican bastions like Arizona and Utah. But other senior party officials would like her to divert significant financial resources to help congressional Democrats.

Mrs. Clinton announced last week that she would send a total of $1 million to Indiana and Missouri, two states where she is not competing that have crucial Senate races. But some Democrats would like to see more.

Mr. Clyburn cited Colorado, where he had just visited and where Mrs. Clinton is very likely to prevail, as an example of a state where he hoped she would continue to spend money for the good of Democratic House candidates. “The young people working on campaigns there I talked to said, ‘We can win this election, but I can’t hire nobody to carry people to polls,’ ” he said, adding that they told him they had “no budget for that.”

What particularly grates on black Democratic leaders is that there always seems to be ample money for television ads, which enrich the party’s top media consultants. In September alone, Mrs. Clinton spent $66 million on commercials.

“I don’t understand why we think that churches and other groups ought to be running vans to the polls for free,” Mr. Clyburn said. “We don’t ask these guys who place TV ads to do it for free.”

The congressmen did not specify how much money they hoped Mrs. Clinton would divert, but with competitive Senate races in at least seven states and two or more hotly contested House campaigns in 13 states, Democratic candidates would benefit from seven-figure commitments.

Aides to Mrs. Clinton, who has started to infuse her stump speech with attacks on Republican congressional candidates, noted that she had committed several million dollars of additional funding in recent days to aid the entire Democratic ticket. And some of her backers privately noted she was doing far more, both in her remarks and with her money, than President Obama had done for other Democrats in his two elections.

“Since the start of the campaign, Hillary Clinton has been deeply committed to electing Democrats from the statehouse to the halls of Congress,” said Marlon Marshall, Mrs. Clinton’s director of states and political engagement. “Having already invested an estimated $100 million in joint efforts to support coordinated campaigns, we’re now supercharging it in the final weeks of the campaign.”

Even as Mr. Trump slips in the polls in nearly every battleground state, raising Democratic hopes for an Electoral College landslide, Republicans continue to run competitively in the hardest-fought Senate and House races.

Public polling shows that Democrats are well positioned to narrowly win control of the Senate, but as many as seven seats remain up in the air. These contests could determine whether Democrats can gain enough of a majority to overcome the occasional straying by some of their more conservative senators.

In the House, Democrats are expected to gain seats, but it is unclear how close they can come to picking up the 30 needed to capture control.

And with newly disclosed fund-raising records revealing that Mrs. Clinton and her joint fund-raising arms began October with more than $152 million in the bank, Mr. Clyburn and Mr. Butterfield believe she should provide more to aid Democrats in races that could go either way.

“I believe the Clinton campaign has the resources,” Mr. Butterfield said.

Mr. Clyburn invoked a bitter anecdote to make his case, recalling how in 2004 John Kerry barely lost the presidency and subsequently was found to have ended the election with $14 million unspent.

“Why was that money sitting in the bank?” Mr. Clyburn said, echoing many Democrats who would have preferred to have seen it transferred to the party.

Both lawmakers said Mrs. Clinton was certain to enjoy an overwhelming victory margin among African-Americans, but they argued that black turnout could determine how many congressional seats Democrats capture. Voting by blacks surged in Mr. Obama’s two victories, but many Democrats have expressed concerns about diminished black enthusiasm in this election, particularly among younger people.

“I want this party, in the final weeks of the campaign, to be out there hiring workers to go out and beat the bushes, knock on doors, get people to polls,” Mr. Clyburn said.

Six of the seven states with Senate races that are likely to determine the balance of power have sizable African-American populations. Among them, North Carolina has the largest proportion of black residents: 22 percent.

“If we can just pump $200,000 to $300,000 into black political groups here that are experts at getting out the African-American vote, I think that can make a difference,” Mr. Butterfield said.

Mr. Butterfield said he had also lobbied Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, the incoming Democratic leader, and Jon Tester of Montana, who leads the Senate Democratic campaign arm, to direct more money to the party’s ground game. A spokesman for the Senate Democratic campaign effort said it was directing money to state parties to drive black turnout and had contracted with former Representative Steven Horsford of Nevada, a political consultant, to help run its efforts in states where the black vote is crucial.

Mr. Butterfield and Mr. Clyburn cast their arguments in practical terms, saying it was in Mrs. Clinton’s interest to begin her presidency with as many Democrats as she could help get elected before facing a potentially difficult first midterm election. Democrats, Mr. Clyburn noted, were all too familiar with making gains in presidential years only to see them erased.

“It’s time for us to work on getting her a supporting cast in place so she can get the kind of Supreme Court that can leave her legacy in place” and enact her legislative agenda, Mr. Clyburn said. “Or else we’ll see ourselves facing the same problems in two years that we did in 2010.”

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