The Democratic National Committee raised $3.2 million in February, a strikingly low take for a financial juggernaut led by President Barack Obama and his legions of grass-roots supporters who helped him shatter campaign fundraising records.
Even the committee's Republican counterpart raised more _ $5.1 million _ last month and did so under more difficult circumstances. The GOP was coming off of a disastrous election in which it lost the White House and saw its numbers in Congress shrink further. New GOP chairman Michael Steele also had a rocky start.
Overall, monthly reports being filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission show the Republican National Committee in healthier shape than the Democrats as both parties start raising money for special congressional elections and governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey this year, as well as congressional elections in 2010.
The DNC reported $8.6 million on hand and $7 million in debt, while the RNC reported $24 million in the bank and no debt.
Obama, who raised nearly $750 million during his presidential campaign, has not focused on party politics for fundraising since his election, spending his time instead assembling his administration and pushing the economic stimulus bill through Congress. Democratic fundraising efforts also have been slowed by the decision by DNC Chairman and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to forgo most political activity until the Virginia Legislature completed its legislative session in late February.
Democrats are hardly broke. They still have an energized base of donors led by Obama, who ended 2008 with some $18 million in his presidential campaign account. He transferred $2 million to the DNC in February. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also is a fundraising draw.
Obama has yet to take part in any major fundraiser; his first event for the DNC is set for Wednesday in Washington. Democrats have been mindful of the potential backlash if the president diverts attention from trying to solve the nation's economic woes for campaign activities.
The party also says it has not aggressively used Obama's 13-million strong e-mail list to raise money. Rather, the list has been tapped primarily for organizational purposes. Still, Democrats were raising at least some money through the Internet, sending out appeals that tagged conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh as the new leader of the GOP.
At the same time, Kaine is essentially a part-time party chairman until his term as governor ends later this year.
A $3.7 billion budget shortfall kept Kaine all but tied to Richmond until the state legislative session ended Feb. 28. While the legislature was in session, a state law prohibited Kaine from raising money for his own political action committee or the state leadership committee he runs although he could help with cash for the party.
By comparison, in February 2005, after George W. Bush won re-election and with Republicans controlling Congress, the RNC raised $12.5 million under new chairman Ken Mehlman.
The DNC raised $6.5 million during that period when its party was out of power at both ends of Pennsylvania Ave. That included a $1 million transfer from failed presidential candidate John Kerry.
Associated Press writers Ann Sanner in Washington and Bob Lewis in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.
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