Members Aid W.H. Hopefuls

Posted July 16, 2003 at 6:49pm

Members of Congress fattened the coffers of the presidential candidates by tens of thousands of dollars in the first six months of the year, with President Bush and Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) emerging as the chief beneficiaries.

Meanwhile Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, became the first lawmaker anointed a “Pioneer” this cycle by the Bush-Cheney committee. The honorific is awarded to those who personally collect at least $100,000 for the campaign.

“He’s hoping to go higher,” NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said, alluding to the elite category of “Ranger” — someone who raises at least $200,000 for the re-election effort.

The data emerge from the critical June 30 reports filed by the presidential campaigns.

Among the contenders, Bush led the way with contributions from at least 27 current Members, who collectively kicked in more than $60,000.

Heading up the group were key Bush allies such as Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), joined by other key figures like House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who serves as the GOP leadership’s liaison to the White House.

But it was Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the former NRCC chairman, who led the field with $7,000 in gifts, from two sources — his re-election committee and his leadership PAC, the Federal Victory Fund.

Meanwhile, in the crowded Democratic field, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) raked in the most campaign cash from their colleagues — much of it coming from House members who have previously endorsed the two candidates.

At least one Member, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), appeared to be covering her bases, making contributions to three of the Democratic candidates: Gephardt, Lieberman and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). All received $2,000 from the California lawmaker.

Nick Papas, spokesman for Harman, said the Congresswoman was just responding to requests from friends.

“The Congresswoman offered contributions to candidates who approached her and she values her friendship with Senator Kerry, Senator Lieberman and Congressman Gephardt, and thinks they’re all qualified [to be president],” Papas said.

Gephardt, who again asked colleagues for donations during a conference call this week, raised a minimum of $28,000 from at least 17 current and three former Capitol Hill lawmakers between April 1 and June 30.

Thousand-dollar contributors in Congress include: Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), Howard Berman (Calif.), Robert Matsui (Calif.), William Lacy Clay (Mo.), Bart Gordon (Tenn.), Jerry Costello (Ill.), Tim Holden (Pa.), John Tanner (Tenn.), Lane Evans (Ill.), Lois Capps (Calif.), Joe Hoeffel (Pa.), Ike Skelton (Mo.), and John Spratt (S.C.).

Pelosi gave an additional $5,000 to Gephardt from her political committee, PAC to the Future, while House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made a $2,500 donation from his leadership PAC, AMERIPAC. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, contributed $1,000 from her Committee for Leadership & Progress.

Gephardt also drew a $500 contribution from Linda Daschle, a lobbyist and the wife of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

The June 30 filing has traditionally served as a benchmark for both Congressional and presidential campaigns hoping to demonstrate formidability. As such, it typically reflects the loyalties candidates are able to call upon in the heat of competition.

Lieberman trailed Gephardt, taking in gifts from nine of his colleagues, including seven House Members and two Senators.

Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.) donated $1,000 from his campaign to Lieberman’s presidential effort on June 30, and Sen. John Breaux’s (D-La.) campaign gave Lieberman $1,000, but Breaux spokeswoman Bette Phelan said the contribution should not be interpreted as a formal endorsement of his Connecticut colleague.

“This is the continuation of the Kosher-Cajun caucus — their two-man caucus,” Phelan remarked, repeating an expression the two lawmakers have used over the past several years to refer to their centrist alliance.

Lieberman has also received $2,000 contributions from Reps. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Cal Dooley (D-Calif.) and Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), plus an $850 “in-kind” contribution from Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.).

Rep. Robert Wexler’s (D-Fla.) “ZACKPAC” gave the Lieberman camp a $250 donation in May, FEC records showed.

Kerry, meanwhile, hasn’t had to dip into his own fortune yet, but he has been getting some help from his current and former colleagues, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who along with her husband Richard Blum gave a total of $4,000 to the Massachusetts Senator.

In his latest report, Kerry reported contributions from the campaigns of former Sens. Don Riegle (D-Mich.) and Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) and Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.). He had earlier received contributions from Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.).

The level of giving by Members would seem to reflect a widespread recognition among Members that control of the White House has become integral to a party’s ability to legislate in a sharply divided Congress.

Lawmakers have tended in recent years to acknowledge that the exposure given a president, particularly on television, enables him to control the Congressional agenda, even if the other party holds the majority in both chambers — a lesson many trace back to the 1995 budget showdown with then-President Clinton, which turned into a GOP debacle.

“I think Members realize that they are helping the president directly [when they contribute to his campaign]. And they realize that if he wins, it helps them,” Forti said.

Reynolds is in fact not the first Member of Congress to become a “Pioneer” for Bush. In the 2000 campaign, Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) reached the $100,000 fundraising threshold.

Neither is on the newest Pioneer manifest, though both have contributed to Bush’s re-election bid.

Reynolds has said publicly that he anticipates that the president will help GOP Congressional candidates on the campaign trail, but has also openly acknowledged that Bush’s first priority must be his own re-election.

Privately, some Republican strategists suggest that Members are taking the long view in providing early support to Bush. The sooner the president’s campaign meets its fundraising targets — said to surpass $200 million — the sooner it will release Congressional committees from the burden of having to compete with him for dollars, they note.

Other current Members who gave money to the Bush-Cheney committee included Reps. John Boehner (Ohio), John Doolittle (Calif.), Vito Fossella (N.Y.), Kay Granger (Texas), Katherine Harris (Fla.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Jack Kingston (Ga.), Ray LaHood (Ill.), Steven LaTourette (Ohio), Jerry Lewis (Calif.), Howard “Buck” McKeon (Calif.), Charlie Norwood (Ga.), Mike Oxley (Ohio), Jack Quinn (N.Y.), Don Sherwood (Pa.), John Shimkus (Ill.) and Pat Tiberi (Ohio).

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) rounded out the group of current Members.

Bush also collected contributions from former Members, including ex-Reps. Thomas Bliley (Va.), Tillie Fowler (Fla.), Connie Morella (Md.) and Richard Schulze (Pa.).

On the Democratic side, former Rep. Bob Borksi (D-Pa.), plus former Sens. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.) and former Sen. Kerrey each gave $1,000 contributions to Gephardt.