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InfoCision Boosts Another GOP PAC

A political action committee founded by Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) to provide donations for House GOP freshmen has quietly become one of the largest PACs in the country with the help of a burgeoning telemarketing firm.

Freshmen PAC, which was launched in 2003 with Sweeney as its honorary chairman, is now the second Capitol Hill-based committee to pay seven-figure sums to InfoCision Management Corp., an Akron, Ohio-based phone bank firm that was paid more than $55 million by the National Republican Congressional Committee in the previous cycle.

While the NRCC contract drew plenty of attention in GOP circles, less noticed was Freshmen PAC’s enlistment of the same firm in mid-2004.

With InfoCision’s help, Freshmen PAC raised just less than $5 million for the cycle. According to PoliticalMoneyLine, a campaign finance Web site, Freshmen PAC was the 23rd largest PAC based on total receipts in the 2004 cycle and one of the very largest committees not linked to a union, trade association or established political advocacy group.

As with the NRCC, the total number raised can be a bit deceiving, as Freshmen PAC paid InfoCision more than $4.3 million for its fundraising services. The committee handed out just $261,000 in contributions for the cycle.

Freshmen PAC is raising and spending cash at an even faster clip this time around, bringing in $1.1 million through the first three months of this year while paying InfoCision $980,000.

Steven Ross, a lobbyist at American Continental Group who serves as director of Freshmen PAC, said the committee planned to use its resources to expand its target list beyond just freshmen.

“Last time we maxed out in the general [election] to all the freshman Members,” Ross said. “This time we’re expecting to max out in the primaries for ’06 and the general for ’06. Hopefully if fundraising continues to be successful, not only do we want to provide maximum financial assistance to the freshmen but we will also look at targeted future freshmen.”

In addition to giving to the 24 current Republican freshmen, Ross said Freshmen PAC will aim to give to GOP challengers and open-seat candidates in the nation’s most competitive races. And the committee will also seek to give again to many of the same recipients from the last cycle, now in their second terms.

Like Freshmen PAC, the NRCC has also continued to employ InfoCision, paying them several million dollars in the first quarter.

The sheer totals of what the NRCC gave InfoCision in the last cycle has been enough to give pause to some Republican lawmakers who wonder about the wisdom of paying so much to one vendor.

But both Freshmen PAC and the NRCC are operating under the argument that InfoCision’s services are worth the expense because they help build up valuable fundraising lists that the committees will be able to mine for several years to come.

“Raising funds via direct marketing is an expensive way to raise money … but the goal is to build up your donor base,” Ross said.

As evidence of that success, he pointed out that Freshmen PAC has received cash from more than 100,000 donors, with an average gift size of about $40.

“They’ve offered us a way to reach the whole country,” Ross said. “With their experience in Republican and conservative direct marketing it’s given us a whole new playing field to target.”

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