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Neal Ups Donations to Colleagues as He Eyes Top Ways and Means Slot

Updated: July 14, 6:31 p.m.

Rep. Richard Neal is taking the shadow fight for the gavel of the Ways and Means Committee to his fellow Members: The Massachusetts Democrat has more than doubled his contributions to other lawmakers in the second quarter of this year.

While Neal hasn’t officially launched a bid to unseat Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), who took over for embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) earlier this year, he doled out $148,000 to individual Members last quarter, according to spokesman William Tranghese. That brings Neal’s total contributions to Members for the first half of 2010 to $197,000. In the entire 2008 cycle, Neal contributed $261,500 to other candidates.

Neal’s contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have also dramatically increased. This cycle he has contributed nearly $600,000 to the DCCC, dwarfing the $221,000 he contributed last cycle.

“Mr. Neal’s two priorities this election cycle are his own re-election campaign and maintaining a Democratic majority in the House,” Tranghese said in an e-mail. “His fundraising simply reflects how committed he is to achieving these two important goals.”

Neal has aggressively been courting K Street and Members to shore up support for his bid. Several lobbyists said they would prefer Neal to Levin because he’s seen as more pro-business and trade friendly.

“He’s telegraphed his punch,” one Democratic lobbyist said. “I’m not sure how Chairman Levin responds to that.”

Levin has also increased his fundraising since taking over leadership of the tax-writing panel.

He gave $203,000 this quarter to other candidates, bringing his total donations to members to $350,000 this year.

Neal’s contributions to the DCCC still beat out Levin. Levin has given the party committee about $340,000 this cycle and has raised more than $280,000 for the committee, according to Levin’s chief of staff, Hilarie Chamber.

There are other forces working in Levin’s favor. Compared with the business-friendly Neal, who has been more supportive of free-trade agreements, Levin is more ideologically in line with his Caucus, which is dominated by liberals.

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