It’s because the leaders of both parties — in DC and in each state capital — demand a set amount of cash from each elected official each year. That cash gets held over their heads each election cycle. If you don’t pay off your “assessment,” it can cost you in the form of committee assignments or even financial help from the party itself at election time.
Revelations like this are in a fantastic book from Peter Schweitzer called “Extortion : How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets”. When you get elected, your party hands you a “bill” demanding that you cough up X-amount of dollars in order to remain in “good standing.”
(It’s clear this kind of thing happens in Raleigh as well. A few years back, a Republican legislator from Forsythe County, who had no primary or general election opponent, publicly expressed frustration with the pressure she was getting from the powers-that-be in Raleigh to raise money. )
Schweitzer, in his book, included details on the monetary demands each party made of its members in Congress. The details for the GOP members of the House for 2013 can be found HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Let’s look at the North Carolina delegation to the House. According to the data Schweitzer got from the NRCC, Renee Ellmers still owed $49,475 from the “2013 March Dinner.” She was assessed “dues” of $67,500 but neither pledged nor paid anything. According to the NRCC records, she had only paid 27 percent of her commitment to the “2013 March dinner.”
NRCC records showed Howard Coble still had an outstanding balance of $230,000 on his “dues” from 2012. He still owed $45,000 for the “2013 March dinner” — which was 90 percent of his overall financial commitment.
Robert Pittenger owed $4,150 from the “2013 March dinner” — which was eight percent of his overall financial commitment. He was assessed $67,500 in “dues” for 2013, but had neither pledged nor paid anything.
Patrick McHenry still owed $25,400 for the “2013 March dinner” — which was 30 percent of his overall financial commitment for that dinner. He was assessed $85,000 in “dues,” pledged $36,200 and had not paid anything.
Richard Hudson paid off his commitment to the March dinner. He was assessed $32,500 in “dues”. He pledged $17,500 and had paid $17,500.
Virginia Foxx paid off her commitment to the March dinner in full. She was assessed dues of $125,000. She pledged $47,550 and paid $40,050.
By comparison, Speaker Boehner was assessed $200,000 in dues. He pledged $418,347 and paid that amount in full. Majority Leader Cantor was assessed $200,000 in dues and paid it in full.