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Friends in High Places

Colleagues Aiding Senate Candidates

It’s no secret national Republicans are delighted that Rep. Mark Kennedy (Minn.) has a clear path to the GOP Senate nomination in the Gopher State next year.

It’s also no secret that many national GOP leaders are less than thrilled at the prospect of Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) leading them into battle against first-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in 2006.

The disparity in the standing between the Kennedy and Harris campaigns becomes tangible when one looks at the financial help they have received from their Congressional colleagues so far this election cycle.

According to information drawn from the Web site, Kennedy had taken in $92,500 from the political action committees of Senators and House Members through Sept. 30. By contrast, Harris had collected just $5,500 from Congressional political action committees, $1,000 of which came from the Friends of Bob Livingston PAC, the committee controlled by the former Appropriations chairman-turned-lobbyist.

Member support for the two campaigns seems to reflect the candidates’ overall financial health as well. On Sept. 30, Kennedy, who is seeking to fill the Senate seat vacated by retiring Democrat Mark Dayton next year, was sitting on $1.5 million, which he will be able to use sparingly in the months ahead as three candidates slug it out for the Democratic nomination.

By contrast, Harris reported having just $470,000 on hand, a total dwarfed by Nelson’s $6.5 million-plus in the bank. In fact, Harris’ war chest is significantly slimmer than that of Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), the latest in a series of alternatives that national GOP leaders have attempted to draft into the Florida Senate race. Foley, who is said to still be mulling the Senate contest, reported more than $2.3 million on hand.

Several Republican Senators appear eager to welcome Kennedy into the chamber. Led by his home-state Senator, Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) — whose early endorsement of the Congressman helped clear the Republican Senate field — Kennedy has also received money from Sens. George Allen (R-Va.), Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio).

In addition, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the House Majority Whip who is now acting Majority Leader, is also a Kennedy donor.

Blunt, in fact, also gave money to Harris — $2,000, from his Rely On Your Beliefs PAC. Harris’ other Congressional donors, through their PACs, were Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

None of the Democrats running for Senate — nor Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who is running with the tacit blessing of national Democratic leaders — can match Kennedy’s fundraising prowess among Members, either.

Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) comes closest. Through Sept. 30, he had raised $20,200 from his House colleagues’ PACs and another $15,000 directly from their own campaign committees.

Senators backing Ford through their PACs were Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), along with former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). Ford also received contributions from three of the four other Democrats who represent the Volunteer State in Congress with him: Reps. Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Bart Gordon (Tenn.) and John Tanner (Tenn.).

Ford is squaring off with Tennessee state Sen. Rosalind Kurita in the Democratic primary for the right to replace Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who is retiring in 2006.

Rep. Benjamin Cardin (Md.), the frontrunner in the five-candidate Democratic field to replace retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), has collected $11,000 in contributions from House Members’ PACs and $9,000 from their campaign committees.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — a friend and colleague of Cardin’s since the two were first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1966 — is far and away Cardin’s biggest Congressional benefactor. He gave Cardin, who managed his campaigns for Minority Whip, $10,000 from his AMERIPAC, and another $4,000 from his Congressional campaign committee.

Sanders, who is seeking to replace retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), raised $1,000 each from the PACs of Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Steven Rothman (D-N.J.).

The fourth Democratic House Member who is running for Senate, Rep. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), just got into the race late last month and thus did not report any contributions from Congressional colleagues. His House campaign committee received $1,000 from Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) in April.

Brown is one of two Democrats competing for the right to face Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) next year.