Lott Slowly Dispersing His Campaign Surplus

Posted February 4, 2008 at 6:45pm

Former Sen. Trent Lott’s (R-Miss.) million-dollar war chest should be sufficient to keep his name on the speed-dial of Republican Congressional candidates, campaign committees and the eventual GOP presidential nominee for the foreseeable future.

According to 2007 year-end Federal Election Commission reports, Lott’s personal campaign committee was sitting on more than $1.2 million as of Dec. 31, and his New Republican Majority Fund political action committee had $458,357 in its coffers.

Bret Boyles, who works for Lott at the former Senator’s new lobbying shop, The Breaux-Lott Leadership Group, said his boss plans on using the money to bolster the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaigns of incumbent and challenger Republican Senate candidates, and the presidential bid of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“He will continue to be helpful to his colleagues, both directly and in conjunction with the NRSC,” Boyles said.

Lott’s fourth-quarter FEC report for his personal campaign account showed minimal activity when it came to campaign giving, although he did transfer $100,000 to the NRSC on Nov. 13, roughly 10 days before he announced he would resign his Senate seat by the end of 2007.

Although appreciative, the NRSC — trailing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in cash on hand, $29.4 million to $12.1 million — plans to ask Lott for another chunk of change leading up to November, according to Republican sources. Lott has not transferred any additional funds to the NRSC, nor has he made any specific commitments since he announced in late November that he was going to resign.

Members who depart Capitol Hill for K Street have been known to use leftover campaign funds to support those former colleagues who might be helpful to them in their business before Congress. Lott and ex-Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) launched their lobbying shop in early January.

But an examination of Lott’s personal campaign account and New Republican Majority Fund PAC show no contributions that could raise such a red flag — either in the weeks before he announced he would resign or through Dec. 31, the last date for which information is available.

In fact, Lott’s fourth-quarter FEC report for his personal campaign account shows that in December, 10 contribution refunds totaling more than $17,000 were issued to PACs and individuals. Among the PACs getting their money back were the Davita, Inc. PAC, the Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal PAC and the Weyerhaeuser PAC.

Political fundraisers say the refunds could have been issued for a host of reasons and did not necessarily have to do with the fact that Lott had announced his intention to resign.

Lott’s personal campaign account did not dole any funds out to candidates in the fourth quarter of 2007. But his PAC was a bit busier, showing donations of $5,000 apiece to a few Republican Senate candidates, though no Senate incumbents. Among the beneficiaries were Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and Rep. Steve Pearce (N.M.)

Kennedy is challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) in November and the Louisiana seat is considered the Senate GOP’s lone legitimate pickup opportunity. Gilmore, whose 2008 presidential bid flamed out last year before any votes were cast, is headed toward a showdown in the open-seat Senate race with former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D).

Pearce is running in a GOP Senate primary against Rep. Heather Wilson as both seek to succeed retiring Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.).

Boyles said more help is on the way for Republican Senate candidates.

Lott is scheduled to headline a fundraiser later this month for Gilmore, and plans to aid the re-election bids of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Lott also plans to be financially helpful to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Wicker was appointed by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) to replace Lott in the Senate, and is running in a special election to fill out the remainder of the six-year term Lott won in 2006. Barbour scheduled that contest for November, but it could be moved up pending a decision by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, several candidates for statewide and legislative office in Mississippi also benefited from Lott’s PAC in the fourth quarter, as the state holds its quadrennial gubernatorial contest and biannual state legislative elections in odd years.