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Fundraising Accelerates in DeLay-Lampson Contest

In what is shaping up to be one of next year’s more watched and competitive Congressional races, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) outraised ex-Rep. Nick Lampson (D) by a margin of nearly 3-1 in the third quarter.

Most of the nearly $903,000 the former Majority Leader collected came in prior to his Sept. 28 indictment, and constituted a record haul for a single quarter for the Houston-area Congressman. Lampson raised almost $322,000 to push his cash on hand to more than $689,000, compared to DeLay’s $1.16 million.

“This will be similar to a Senate race; it will be a national race, especially when it comes to people coming in and putting ads on TV,” DeLay campaign spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty said. “We will spend whatever it takes” to win.

Flaherty confirmed that a September fundraiser with Vice President Dick Cheney — canceled due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — has been rescheduled for the fourth quarter of this year. She declined to disclose how much money she expects the event to generate, saying only it would be a “strong showing.”

Adding some financial muscle to Lampson, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this evening will launch the Lampson Victory 2006 Fund with a Washington, D.C., fundraiser featuring House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.).

The invitation seeks $25,000 from individuals and $15,000 from political action committees that want to be listed as chairmen of the joint fund, which will be split between Lampson and the committee, and $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, from those who want to sponsor it.

DCCC spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg declined to disclose how much the event is expected to raise.

Lampson campaign manager Mike Malaise acknowledged the former Congressman would like to be a more proficient fundraiser as the election approaches. But considering Lampson stopped making calls for almost a month after Katrina hit, he is pleased with his progress.

“I think we’re looking pretty good. We can’t set a goal of outraising Tom DeLay, we just have to write a campaign plan and make sure we have money to execute it without cutting corners,” Malaise said. “These are very good numbers for a year out.”

Malaise said there has been an uptick in Internet and unsolicited donations since late September, when Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle (D) indicted DeLay on conspiracy to skirt Texas election law.

Lampson lost his seat last year after falling victim to a rare mid-decade redistricting maneuver that was engineered by DeLay. Lampson, who is challenging DeLay in a 22nd district that has fewer Republicans than it did before its lines were redrawn, and includes some areas relatively new to the GOP incumbent, lost in 2004 to now-Rep. Ted Poe (R) in the 2nd district.

DeLay, meanwhile, could be running for re-election under the cloud of a criminal trial, although Flaherty said the “blatantly political” indictment has only served to raise even more money for the Congressman than he would have otherwise, as donors have been motivated to defend him and the conservative agenda he represents.

DeLay should remain in good shape politically, and continue to raise money at a healthy clip, as long as his problems are seen as political, and not legal.

Accordingly, Lampson can also use DeLay to his financial advantage as he solicits funds around the nation, with his collections likely to rise if stories about DeLay’s legal troubles proliferate, Democratic pollster David Beattie said.

“Candidates lose races they shouldn’t when they break the law; that’s what you saw in 1994. But there have also been people in jail that have won elections,” Beattie said.

Even if the allegations linger into next year, DeLay is unlikely to have trouble raising money — at least as long as he is considered influential on Capitol Hill.

“Until he’s gone, people don’t want to bet against him,” Beattie said.

By raising almost $903,000 in the third quarter, DeLay almost matched the nearly $1.3 million he had raised from the beginning of the 2006 election cycle through the end of quarter two.

More than half of the $903,000 — $569,000 — came from individuals, while political action committees chipped in $346,000. Among the 103 PAC donations: $5,000 from the American Council of Life Insurers; $5,000 from Federal Express; and $5,000 from Wal-Mart.

Calls to Federal Express and Wal-Mart were not returned, while ACLI spokesman Jack Dolan declined to specifically address whether DeLay’s indictment would cause his organization to reconsider donating to him in the future.

“ACLI gives to pro-business candidates, both Republican and Democrat, and especially those that are committed to boosting Americans’ financial and retirement security,” Dolan said.

Lampson, with almost $322,000 in contributions, continued along a consistent, steady pace, raising in quarter three slightly more than a third of the $824,276 he has collected in this election cycle.

The bulk of his third quarter donations — $284,626 — came from individuals, with $38,400 received from PACs. Seven of the 17 PACs that donated were identifiable as labor unions, and accounted for $21,500 of the $38,400 in PAC money Lampson received.

The Association of Trial Lawyers of America added another $5,000, while members have donated a total of $164,000 to Lampson to date, including $7,678 in the third quarter. members are watching this race closely, a spokesman for the organization said. The FEC reports that the group’s PAC donated $200 to Lampson on Sept. 2.

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