WASHINGTON — Responding to growing discontent among Democrats outside Washington, the Democratic National Committee promised Friday to shrink its debt dramatically and give state parties a share of profits from presidential fund-raisers.
With rank-and-file party activists gathering for weekend meetings in Washington, DNC officials said the debt will not exceed $9.4 million when the party files a year-end report with the government on Jan. 31. That is down from $13.4 million six months ago.
The Republican National Committee, using the same calculation method to produce its lowest-possible debt figure, estimated that the GOP debt is $4.7 million, down from $8.5 million a year ago.
The new Democratic debt figure is scheduled to be announced today at the DNC's executive committee meeting. DNC officials hope to convince their bread-and-butter activists that the party's dim financial picture is brightening.
Casting a shadow over the meeting were complaints from state party leaders that White House fund-raisers outside Washington are hurting efforts to elect Democratic officials to statewide office in November. Judith Hope, chairwoman of the New York state party, was quoted in Friday's editions of the New York Times as saying the DNC needs to be a partner, "not competitors," in the search for dollars.
Other Democrats chimed in, saying New York fund-raisers headlined by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore leave donors unable to help the state party.
Rushing to contain the griping, DNC officials told state party leaders about long-standing plans to guarantee state parties a modest cut of large White House fund-raisers.
DNC officials and state chairmen gathering here for today's meeting expressed sympathy with Hope but said the party has no choice but to focus on reducing its debt.
"I understand the need for money to be left in Colorado, but our primary objective has to be to get this debt gone and get the national campaign funded," said Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, co-chairman of the DNC.
The $9.4-million debt figure was calculated to provide the rosiest picture: It gives the party credit for cash on hand that may not go toward paying down debt. Minus the cash, the party's debt is still about $13 million, officials said.