Democrats seeking money for Massachusetts' special Senate election

Sen. Tammy Baldwin says efforts 'must start now' despite having no official candidate

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The Democratic Party hasn't officially settled on a nominee to fill the seat of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who resigned earlier this year to become the country's new secretary of state. But it's already hitting up donors in preparation for the special election this summer.

"Our efforts to retain and expand our control of the Senate must start now," wrote Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., in a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundrasing appeal to previous donors that the Center for Public Integrity obtained.

In the letter, dated March 4, Baldwin said the DSCC was soliciting cash "to get an early start in the upcoming races," including the Massachusetts special election, in which Democratic Reps. Ed Markey and Steve Lynch are vying for the chance to run against a yet-undetermined GOP opponent.

The DSCC has endorsed Markey over Lynch in the April 30 Democratic primary. The general election is June 25.

Last month, the two Democrats signed a pledge encouraging third-party groups, such as the DSCC, to abstain from making independent expenditures during the Democratic primary. If outside groups spend money on advertisements that violate the pledge, the candidates agreed to dip into their own campaign coffers and donate to charity an amount equal to half the cost of those ads.

Already, a handful of groups have worked to mobilize supporters without violating the pledge, and it's unclear if the covenant will extend to the general election. 

DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky said his organization was "abiding by the agreement," adding that he was hopeful the winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries would sign a similar accord. A spokesman for the NRSC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and his Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, signed a similar outside spending pledge during last fall's election.

In her fundraising letter, Baldwin, who last week was tapped to head the DSCC's program focused on electing women to the Senate and protecting female incumbents, warned of the danger of deep-pocketed GOP groups spending in the Bay State — and beyond.

With the special election approaching, "Republicans see an early opportunity, and they're already jumping at it: Karl Rove just launched a new group called the Conservative Victory Project with the goal of delivering the Senate to the Republicans," Baldwin wrote.

"We can't get complacent like we did in 2010," she added. "In midterm elections, victory isn't determined only by who has the best ideas or by the party with the best candidates. The side that wants it more is the more that wins. This is our chance to prove — right now — that we want it the most."

The letter states a fundraising goal of $631,330 by April 30, the day of Massachusetts' Senate primaries, and the solicitation notes that donations "will be matched one to one" by a "group" of unspecified supporters.

The DSCC has out-raised its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, $8.4 million versus $3.7 million during the first two months of 2013, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

But while it has more money in the bank, it also has more debt.

The DSCC ended February with $5 million in the bank and $15 million in debt, according to its most recent campaign finance filing.

Meanwhile, the NRSC ended February with $3 million cash on hand and debts totaling $9.5 million, FEC records show.

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