WASHINGTON — Early Tuesday morning, Rep. Steve Israel received a bit of good news in what is otherwise a tough election year for his party: The House Democrats' campaign operation scored a $1 million one-day online haul from 50,000 donors.
The sudden burst of donations was fueled by Democratic solicitations highlighting recent House GOP efforts to sue President Obama and some Republican public figures calling for his impeachment -- even as GOP leaders say they have no such plans.
"I think that the Republican strategy of lawsuits and approaching impeachment is fundamentally misfiring," Israel said at a Tuesday breakfast roundtable with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "Look, I understand that the strategy is intended to gin up their base, but it's having the unintended consequence of moving our base in a midterm election in a big way."
Israel may be exaggerating the overall electoral boost for Democrats — every non-partisan election handicapper is forecasting Republicans will gain seats in the 2014 midterms — but the Democrats' official campaign operation's fundraising is a bright spot for the party.
Democrats have outraised their GOP counterparts by nearly $25 million for the two-year campaign season, $125 million to $101 million, and they have more cash at the ready as the election season enters the home stretch. Democrats also boast about their large number of low-dollar donors as a testament to grass-roots support. Their operation has raised $51 million in donations less than $200, compared with $18 million for Republicans.
Democrats have a built-in advantage because their party controls the White House. With Obama not running for re-election again, his political efforts are directed at building the campaign war chests for House and Senate campaigns.
However, Israel credited House Republicans for keeping Democratic donors engaged. "John Boehner makes the case for us," he said, referring to the speaker, who is leading the effort to sue the president over his use of executive authority to implement the Affordable Care Act.
Since a House committee reported out a bill last week outlining the lawsuit, Israel said the campaign has raised $3 million online, from 160,000 donations. The previous best short-term flood of donations came when GOP efforts led to a partial government shutdown last fall.
"Every time they talk about impeachment or don't take it off the table, or every time they talk about suing the president, that just ignites our base," Israel said. "It's giving us the resources we need to contest these elections."
Boehner criticized Democrats on Tuesday for cynically promoting impeachment talk to raise money. While some prominent GOP voices, such as Sarah Palin and former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., have called for impeachment, Boehner characterized it as a "scam" and made clear it is not on the House agenda.
"This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president's own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they're trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year's elections," he said, "We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans."