PI Original Progress Illinois Thursday October 30th, 2008, 10:34am

Dick The (Party) Builder

Sen. Dick Durbin has not only given generously to Democrats nationwide -- he has also focused on building a better party apparatus here in Illinois. 

With their sights set on winning a filibuster-proof, 60-seat majority, Senate Democrats are giving generously to the party's fundraising arm. But it's Illinois' own Dick Durbin who set the standard during this election cycle.

The Senate Majority Whip quietly transferred $1 million into the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in September. Shortly thereafter, Sen. John Kerry followed his lead, Roll Call reports:

Kerry handed over his $1 million to the campaign committee on Sept. 24 but, unlike Durbin, made his contribution public in an e-mail to supporters [...]

Mike Daly, Durbin’s campaign manager, said his boss “thought the best use” of his resources “would be helping to get more Democrats elected in the Senate.”

But while Durbin has given generously to Democrats nationwide, he has also focused on building a better party apparatus here at home. 

Campaign finance reports show that on October 9 the Senate Majority Whip gave $200,000 to Illinois Victory '08, a county party committee based in Waukegan.  The organization is handling the Democrats' "coordinated campaign" in the state, spearheading field and organizational efforts with a great deal of financial support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

In most states, the coordinated campaign is an extension of the state party, but not so in Illinois, where party chairman Michael Madigan has historically shown little interest in working to support Democratic congressional candidates.  As we noted back in June, Durbin has also circumvented Madigan by working with the Democratic County Chairmen's Association to build their own voter file (known as the "VAN") for Illinois Democrats. 

In previous election cycles, Democratic campaigns have made up for the state party's negligence by banding together and devising various work-arounds.  This year, with Durbin's help, the Democrats appear to be creating something more permanent.

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