“Everybody’s aware that the microscope is on them from both sides. The threat of ‘we’re watching your giving’ now applies to both sides,” this lobbyist added. “We basically are supporting people who support us, no matter what their party is.”
But this lobbyist said he and other leaders at companies and groups are recommending that PACs keep extra cash on hand for after the elections to help the party that ultimately takes control of the House retire some of its campaign debt.
David Bolger, director of public relations for UPS’ Washington, D.C., office, said no one from UPS attended last week’s NRCC meeting, but the company’s PAC officials regularly meet with Members from both sides.
“We base our giving not on those types of statements but primarily on where the Members of Congress are, are they pro-business, pro-global free trade, pro-competition,” Bolger said.
Bill Burton, Forti’s counterpart at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Reynolds’ comments don’t surprise him.
“Tom Reynolds is threatening anybody he could in an effort to hold on to power,” Burton said. “I sort of feel for him. He’s up against a wave of unpopularity, and it’s going to cost a lot.”
The director of a major PAC that strongly leans Republican also said Reynolds’ comments came as no surprise. “The Democrats are going around reminding everyone that they might be in power,” this PAC director said. “Our numbers maybe were a little up to Democrats, but nothing shocking.”
Ken Gross, a lobbying and campaign finance expert at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, said if Reynolds’ statements were accurately recalled, they would not likely count as an ethics violation.
“A public official would have to use his official position or cloak of authority to extract contributions based on using that authority to deny or promise a specific benefit to the contributor— a quid pro quo is required,” he said. “This is a far cry from any such violation. I know of no ethics violations with such an implicit statement that would be breached by that.”
Stanley Brand, another ethics expert, agreed with Gross. But, he said, “I guess in this environment, with a Department of Justice task force going, they probably should be more careful.”