Associated Press Online
September 20, 2003 Saturday
AP Analyzes House Freshmen Fund Raising
BYLINE: JONATHAN D. SALANT; Associated Press Writer
SECTION: WASHINGTON DATELINE
LENGTH: 770 words
An Associated Press analysis of 37 freshman House members on three key committees shows 35 of the lawmakers raised a greater percentage of political action committee money from the industries and unions that fall under their committees' jurisdiction than they had received before getting their assignments.
The AP analyzed data for the House members on three key committees - Armed Services, which decides which billion-dollar weapons systems the Pentagon will buy; Financial Services, which oversees congressional efforts to respond to the corporate accounting scandals, and Transportation and Infrastructure, which is writing legislation to allocate tens of billions of dollars in federal gasoline tax revenues. All but two of the lawmakers got a larger percentage of their PAC money after getting their committee assignments than they did during their 2002 campaigns.
"The committees are often where the action is," said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. "You want to have access to the committee members and their staffs."
Florida Republican Ginny Brown-Waite received attention from the banking, insurance and real estate industries after she was elected to the House and named to the committee overseeing those industries.
Brown-Waite received $83,500 in PAC funds during the first six months of the year, five times as much as during her entire 2002 campaign, according to an AP computer-assisted analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission and from the Center for Responsive Politics, a private group that tracks campaign financing.
Lawmakers reject a connection between votes and money, and interest groups say they don't expect anything in return for their donations.
But a separate AP analysis earlier this year found that on six hotly debated measures in the House - medical malpractice, class-action lawsuits, overhauling bankruptcy laws, the energy bill, gun manufacturer lawsuits and overtime pay - the biggest recipients of interest group money almost always voted the way their donors wanted.
Caryn McLeod, a spokeswoman for Brown-Waite, acknowledged the banking, insurance and real estate industries have paid more attention to her boss since she gained a spot on the Financial Services Committee.
Those interests accounted for 27 percent of the $305,180 in PAC money Brown-Waite raised during the first six months of 2003. They totaled just 5 percent of the $318,790 in PAC funds she raised during her 2002 election, in which she ousted incumbent Democratic Rep. Karen Thurman.
"There's more of an interest in her now that she's on the Banking Committee," McLeod said. "Now she's in a position that she wasn't in when she was campaigning."
Among Brown-Waite's receipts: $3,500 from the Independent Community Bankers of America, which did not contribute to her last year.
"Our policy is we support members who support community banking issues, and community banking issues are dealt with on the Financial Services Committee," said Ron Ence, director of legislative affairs for the trade group, which represents local banks.
Other examples among the freshmen:
-When he ran in 2002, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., raised $6,000 from defense company PACs. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, he raised $15,000 between January and June.
-Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., raised $50,849 from banking, insurance and real estate PACs, 41 percent of all his PAC money during his first six months on the Financial Services Committee. When he ran, 17 percent of his PAC money came from those industries.
-Rep. Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y., raised $33,500 from transportation interests for his 2002 election. After he landed a seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, they contributed $59,500 in the first six months of 2003.
Mike Ingrao, chief of staff for the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, said the union tries to meet with all of the freshmen who sit on transportation-related committees.
"If we get a sense that these people are going to end up supportive, we're going to make the contribution," he said.
Noble said special interest groups understand that committees are where legislation gets written and rewritten.
"Committees do a lot of their work outside the public view and it's often where the detail work is being done on bills," Noble said. "By a time a bill gets to the floor, it's too late to get the small provisions you want in or the small provisions you want out."
On the Net:
Center for Responsive Politics: http://www.opensecrets.org
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