ORLANDO — Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz acknowledged Wednesday a fundraising rivalry between the Democratic National Party and President Obama's Organizing For Action — but said that the influx of donations to OFA doesn't detract from the DNC's cash flow.
"Rivalry in fundraising and politics is sort of a natural part of the DNA," the Florida Democrat said of Obama's retooled campaign organization. "But as I said at the beginning when OFA formed, I welcome their existence. It really is a way for us to keep our volunteers engaged during an off-election year."
She added, though, that come election season, she fully expects OFA to "turn their energy toward campaigns."
OFA said Friday that it raised $8.2 million from April to June — almost double what it raised from January to April. Wasserman Schultz insists that isn't money coming out of the DNC's pockets.
"There isn't a single person that I have called or who I have spoken to in person who has said, 'I'm sorry, Debbie, I can't give money to the DNC because I'm going to give money to OFA,'" she said. "I'm not sure the same is true in reverse, to be quite frank. I think probably they have had people say, 'You know, I'm gonna concentrate on the party.' But I think we've both been able to exceed our goals."
Wasserman Schultz spoke about these fundraising efforts — as well as 2014 recruitment progress — in a meeting with reporters prior to her remarks at the annual NAACP conference in Orlando Wednesday morning.
On finding electable candidates in swing jurisdictions, Wasserman Schultz said that Rep. Steve Israel's recruitment committee is "very happy with where they are."
"In some cases, we're having a little trouble fending off people who are interested and making sure that we recruit candidates that actually have an opportunity to win," she said. "I think the reason the odds are going to come out in our favor is because the Republican Party has gone off the deep end. They clearly haven't learned anything from their loss in 2012. If anything, they've doubled down on their extremism."
Wasserman Schultz also spoke briefly on Stand Your Ground and similar self-defense laws — which Attorney General Eric Holder said "undermine public safety" in his NAACP address Tuesday — calling Florida's law "incredibly unjust, unnecessary and unacceptable."
She said she was proud as a Floridian that local protests remained calm in the days following a Stanford, Florida, jury's decision that George Zimmerman was not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin. She said she hopes white leaders begin leading discussions on racial conflict.
"There's been a lot said about the need to use this tragedy as a way to really take a hard look at how we deal with race relations in America," she said. "But the way I hope it happens is not in the same old way."
During her NAACP address, Wasserman Schultz thanked the largely Southern crowd for overcoming voter ID laws in 2012 to put Democrats into office. But she also stressed the importance of turnout in 2014, now that a key anti-discriminatory provision of the Voting Rights Act has been struck down by the Supreme Court.
"The threat of discrimination still exists," she said. "It existed in 1965, in 2006 when Congress reauthorized the Act, and the voter suppression efforts during the 2012 election cycle, right here in Florida and across the country, show us they remain today."
Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jessica Testa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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