Thursday, July 09, 2009

Democrats For Pelura (Updated)

Maryland Democrats had better hope the state Republican Party does not get rid of embattled Chairman James Pelura III. From a financial perspective, Pelura is the best Republican Chairman the Democrats could ever hope to have.

Pelura and some Republican elected officials may disagree on the state party’s role in setting policy. But few people would disagree on the central role of any political party apparatus: helping its candidates win elections. That means training activists, registering voters, communicating with the press, criticizing the other party’s candidates, getting out the vote and channeling activity towards critical, and winnable, races. All of the above takes money.

Much of the discontent with Pelura is directed to his inability to raise money and clear the state party’s debt. Let’s put those party finances in perspective. Both the Democrats and the Republicans maintain county party organizations, each of which has its own treasury, along with the state organizations. Furthermore, both parties have federal funds which must be used to promote federal candidates. The sum totality of all these party funds augments the individual candidates’ funds to wage battle at election time.

Here are the most recent financial statistics for all Democratic state funds in Maryland:

And here are the most recent financial statistics for all Republican state funds in Maryland:

Among the county organizations, the Republicans do not trail the Democrats by much. GOP county funds had a collective total cash balance of $148,562.65 in January 2009, fairly close to the Democratic county total of $171,733.69. Only one county organization, the Queen Anne’s County RCC, had any debt, and that was just $500. Three Republican county parties – Montgomery, Harford and Anne Arundel – raised and spent more than $20,000 each. Only one Democratic county party – Prince George’s – did so. None of this makes up for overwhelming Democratic registration advantages throughout the state. But at least some of the Republican county parties are trying to stay in the game.

The same cannot be said at the state level. In terms of state funds, the Democratic state party had $161,898.48 in January 2009 with no debt. The Republican state party had $57.96 with $57,272.24 in debt. Of the debt amount, $40,672.24 is in “outstanding bills due.” Who is owed and how soon will they come to collect?

But there is more. Consider the condition of the two parties’ federal funds.

The Democratic state party and the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee together raised $805,140 and spent $929,077 in the first five months of this year. (MCDCC raised more money than 15 state Democratic parties.) They recorded a final cash balance of $98,001. The Republican state party raised $128,099, spent $128,187 and finished with just $1,547.

Let’s restate this in pure and simple terms.

Republican state party, state cash balance, January 2009: $57.96
Republican state party, federal cash balance, May 2009: $1,547
Republican state party, debt, January 2009: $57,272.24

Under James Pelura III, the Maryland Republican Party is flat on its back. It cannot help protect GOP incumbents. It cannot devote any resources to helping defeat First District Democratic Congressman Frank Kratovil. And the staff turmoil under Pelura guarantees that donors will stay away as long as he continues to serve as Chairman.

And so keeping Pelura in place should be a top priority for Maryland Democrats. Once his Executive Committee starts to push him out, Pelura will need legal advice to remain in place. We should start a defense fund for him right now. Let’s call it “Democrats for Pelura.” Do we have any takers?

Update: According to the Sun, the state GOP’s problems are now $77,500 worse.