Since 1995, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have collectively given $6.3 million directly to members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions, according to an analysis by the Huffington Post of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That's not an overwhelming sum when the average winning campaign nowadays costs more than $1 million, but it represents one-sixth of all giving from one faction within the party to another. It doesn't include the millions that progressives have given to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- rank-and-file members are supposed to cough up $150,000 every two years (though many miss that mark), committee chairmen $250,000 and up. The DCCC turns around and funnels that money to conservative Democrats in close races. Add to that the millions spent by organized labor and outside groups such as MoveOn.org, and it's clear that progressive donors have become major financial benefactors of the conservative Democrats who battled to undermine their agenda. "That tension exists a lot," George Miller says about the party's demand that progressives fund their intramural rivals. "That tension exists a lot. And it's real."
Democrats play it too safe, says Grijalva. "When I give my dues to the DCCC, or when you contribute to it, you have no distinction as to where your money is going to go. And it goes to front-liners and usually Blue Dogs and [they] usually vote against our issues. And that's a real frustration. And usually, if there's a progressive running, it's the last consideration in terms of support," he says.
The Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions emerged in the 1990s in the wake of the successful Republican campaign to take control of Congress, and have continuously expanded their membership ever since. The prototypical Blue Dog comes from a socially conservative, rural district; New Democrats are more likely to represent pro-choice bankers from the suburbs. Both groups offer automatic protection against accusations that their members are too liberal.
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