7:16pm

Tue March 29, 2011
It's All Politics

Congress' Lawmakers Raising Oodles Of Cash For Redistricting Efforts

Many people probably don't realize that members of Congress can raise unlimited cash for state redistricting efforts.

I know I didn't. Somehow I missed the Federal Elections Commission opinion issued nearly a year ago that members of Congress can raise unregulated cash for this purpose.

The FEC reasoned that since the money wasn't being raised for elections, it didn't fall under federal campaign money limits.

Of course, the money can have a very real impact on elections by redrawing a district so it's voter demographics become more favorable to one party or the other. But that was a second-order effect the FEC felt was beyond the scope of the law.

In any event, a Politico.com piece by John Bresnahan reports that lawmakers are hellbent on raising some serious money for state redistricting efforts that are gearing up now that the Census Bureau has delivered population numbers to the states.

Bresnahan reports that Republicans intend to raise up to $20 million while the Democratic goal is $12.5 million.

The size and scope of this unregulated fundraising effort shows just how much is at stake with redistricting this year for both parties. Rust Belt states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania will be losing seats as the U.S. population continues to shift toward the South and West. New York will also lose two seats. Texas will gain four congressional seats, cementing its status as the second-biggest House delegation after California. Florida will also add two seats of its own.

The GOP avalanche on Election Day resulted in the major wins at the statehouse level for Republicans, giving the party control over drawing maps for 196 seats, against only 49 seats for Democrats. This GOP dominance in the statehouses sparked predictions by some political analysts that Democrats would get routed during redistricting as Republicans drew new congressional maps across the nation. But Democrats now predict they will come out of redistricting in decent shape, either with small gains or losses but definitely not the landslide some observers forecast.

To help combat any GOP redistricting gains, the National Democratic Redistricting Trust was created to fund "pre-litigation and litigation costs that arise following the next legislative redistricting process," including Voting Rights Act challenges to contested districts.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.