With the repeal of Roe v. Wade and the GOP’s subsequent rush to restrict abortion in Republican-controlled states, liberal donors may be surprised to find out just how much money the Democratic National Committee has contributed to the Democratic committee trying to win statehouses.
The answer, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee confirmed to The Daily Beast, is... nothing.
Despite Democrats talking a big game for years about catching up to the Republicans at the state level—the DNC even formed a “victory task force” in 2015 to take back state legislatures—the DNC hasn’t given a cent this midterm cycle to the DLCC, the party’s main statehouse fundraising arm.
While the DNC has already handed the party’s House and Senate committees $15 million in total this year, the DLCC was left to fend for itself.
"Democrats don’t believe in trickle-down economics, but they do believe in trickle-down politics,” said Christina Polizzi, a spokesperson for the DLCC.
If there’s one statistic operatives like Polizzi and candidates at the state level bring up from 2020 to underscore the Democratic Party’s misplaced priorities, it’s how much money Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath raised to lose to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) by almost exactly 20 points.
“Nothing makes me angrier than looking back at, you know, in the last cycle in 2020, Democratic donors donated $94 million to Amy McGrath to try to defeat Mitch McConnell,” Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow told The Daily Beast, taking a beat in her critique of Democratic donors overlooking state legislatures.
Roughly 60 percent of those donations to McGrath were less than $200.
“And it was all of this messaging about like, if we just take out Mitch McConnell, we're gonna fix everything,” McMorrow continued. “And in comparison, the DLCC’s budget for that entire cycle—for every single state legislature around the country—was $51 million.”
Brooke Goren, a spokesperson for the DNC, said in a statement that the party works with the DLCC in other ways to “maximize the DNC’s hard federal dollars,” which she differentiated from “the soft non-federal funds the DLCC raises” because the organization is not subject to federal max-out limits for individual donors.
“The DNC works closely with the DLCC team while investing directly in states to fund resources like staff and data and targeting information that support candidates up and down the ticket, including in every one of the DLCC’s targeted chambers,” Goren said.
The DNC has also been spending in states where the party is trying to hold onto majorities, including Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and New Mexico, as well as efforts to flip chambers in Michigan, New Hampshire, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Minnesota’s Senate.
Still, the coordinated campaigns have to prioritize where to allocate resources, and they have to decide which statehouse seats make the most sense to try to flip or defend while also spending on much more expensive gubernatorial and congressional races.
Even with increased attention on Democratic state legislature efforts following the repeal of Roe v. Wade—the DLCC’s best 48-hour fundraising period came after the Dobbs decision, breaking the previous record of the two days following the SCOTUS leak—the GOP’s counterpart, the RLSC, continues to eat the DLCC’s lunch.
While the DLCC broke its quarterly fundraising record with a $6.75 million haul in Q2 2022, the RLSC brought in $10.7 million that same quarter.
The McGrath phenomenon became a reckoning of sorts among some Democratic campaign consultants, still digging out from the loss of 958 state legislature seats during Barack Obama’s administration and then a disappointing 2020, where the party’s inability to flip any chambers cost them control of redistricting during a census year.
The GOP’s 2010 blowout left Democrats with state majority control of just 10 percent of U.S. House seats after redistricting, while the Republicans ballooned up to 40 percent of the seats. The rest fell under states with either a court-drawn system, divided governments, or independent commissions.
Beyond the redistricting ramifications, the party botching so many state-level campaigns paved the way for Republican majorities to pass abortion restrictions ready to launch after the Dobbs decision.
“It was because of a down-ballot collapse for Democrats in state legislatures,” McMorrow said. “So we lost nearly a thousand state legislature seats all around the country, starting in 2009, and lost control of 29 chambers across 19 states. And that is where all of these horrific bills are being introduced and passed, knowing that they will be challenged at the Supreme Court.”
In a state like Michigan, where Republicans have held onto the state Senate majority since 1984, a new redistricting commission opened up the map for Democrats and offered a chance to catch up to the GOP’s down-ballot victories.
Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich highlighted just a few examples of how the commission reshuffled the board for Democrats through the miracle of the “un-gerrymander.”
“So the way you do that is instead of packing a bunch of Dems into one seat, you unpack them,” the Flint Democrat told The Daily Beast. “So Ann Arbor had one seat. Now it'll have two in this election. The East Lansing and Lansing area had one seat. Now it'll have two. Grand Rapids, which used to be a Republican area, is now turning Democratic. It had sort of one heavily Republican district and one district that we won. It’ll now have two districts, one of which is Democratic and one of which we have a real chance winning. That's the basic way you un-gerrymander it.”
RLSC spokesperson Stephanie Rivera said if Democrats want to replicate the GOP’s success at the state level, they should “stop mimicking Joe Biden's failed policies.”
“State Republicans will have a big November because they are countering Biden's agenda by cutting taxes, supporting law enforcement, and empowering parents to have a say in their children's education,” Rivera told The Daily Beast in a statement.
The Michigan GOP did not return a request for comment.
For McMorrow, any additional eyes she can bring on state-level candidates is a win when the bulk of her colleagues are shut out of the national discussion.
“I can talk about a really consequential state where we have a chance of flipping it that hopefully opens the door to recognizing we have to do a lot more work down-ballot,” McMorrow said. “We have to champion people. We have to fund these races in the ways that Republicans have for decades, because we're not on TV, we're not in D.C.”
“This is the old school,” McMorrow continued, “mail and going door-to-door and all of that kind of stuff.”