From The Hill:
In his latest bid to rally his Democratic colleagues to the cause of winning back the House in November, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) is instituting a point system to track how much individual House Democrats engage in political work helpful to the party.
Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, were expected to announce the existence of the system at a political dinner for House Democrats last night. Emanuel has begun describing it in recent meetings with Democratically aligned groups.
The DCCC has long tracked how much money each Democrat raises for the committee and how much each contributes in quarterly dues. The new system is expected to be much broader, assigning point values to less easily quantifiable items such as whether members travel to other districts for political work, whether they hold press conferences in other districts, or whether they serve as a mentor to a challenger.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that he had yet to hear about the program but that he felt such a system could reward Democrats who aid their colleagues but have trouble raising money because they come from poor districts.
"I cannot be successful in this caucus if I'm only judged on fundraising capabilities, no matter how much I may have to offer," he said, noting that he represents a poor district in a poor state but often travels around the country to help challengers.
It was unclear how the DCCC would use the numbers it plans to amass, but one Democratic aide suggested that the totals could be pivotal in making decisions about committee assignments and that leaders would seek to reward members with high scores.
"It's something members should be thinking about in terms of wanting to get on committees," the aide said.
Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) welcomed a focus on member activity.
"Engagement certainly should be rewarded. It should be rewarded," Davis said. "It would be tragic if we lost by a few seats and there had been 10 or 15 Democrats who sat on the sidelines and simply couldn't be bothered. It has to be made clear to members that we're going to need all hands on deck."
Pelosi has made it clear to members that their loyalty to the caucus will be a key factor in making committee-assignment decisions. Last fall she threatened to remove Rep. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) from the Energy and Commerce Committee after he missed several key budget votes.
Fascinating. While it's clear that loyalty and effectiveness should be rewarded, it's not clear that fundraising prowess is the best marker for loyalty and effectiveness. This is a strike aimed at the seniority system, which allows for a certain lack of accountability among senior legislators. Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi, regardless of their ideological disagreements, certainly share a desire to have a stronger and more unified caucus, and both believe that centralized fundraising is the key to get there. This is a page right out of the Clinton model, which seeks to control the streams of revenue so as to increase power, enforce discipline, and cut off wayward members.
It's going to be interesting to watch this centralizing force running smack up against the decentralizing pull of the internet. I'm sure that at least at first they'll win most, we'll win a few, we'll work together on some, etc. Now I don't really get Pelosi; she acts like a conservative insider and votes like a progressive. The challenge for the netroots, which is ideologically oriented against this insider's version of politics, is to develop competitive revenue streams that can build up and support a parallel infrastructure. I'm watching these two, to see how they are setting up their incentive models.