Rep. Zack Space has promised not to take money from lobbyists. But campaign contributions from corporate political action committees and lobbyists' spouses? That's apparently a different story altogether, public records show.
Since succeeding Rep. Bob Ney (R), who went to jail for his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying and corruption scandal, the Ohio Democrat has repeatedly said lawmakers should swear off campaign contributions from K Street, going so far as to encourage his colleagues to make the checks illegal.
In a recent interview, Space told home-state television station WTOV that Ney's 'bad mistakes' with Abramoff compelled Space to adopt a self-imposed ban since kicking off his first House campaign roughly five years ago.
'I'd like to see all of Congress subscribe to the same pledge, and if they're not willing to, be lawfully bound by that pledge,' Space told the television station. 'I think it's unseemly and think that it sends the wrong message to the public.'
But Republicans are now attempting to skewer Space, who is favored to beat state Sen. Bob Gibbs (R) on Election Day, for what they claim are violations of the spirit of his pledge. While limiting the contributions he directly receives from lobbyists, Space does accept checks from powerful downtown interests such as corporate and trade association PACs, whose contributions frequently are directed by the groups' lobbyists.
According to CQ MoneyLine, Space's campaign committee has received $1.1 million in contributions from his House colleagues and from corporate PACs, including a wide array of powerful lobbying interests such as Southern Co., Honeywell International, Comcast Corp., National Association of Broadcasters, Verizon Communications Inc., Pfizer Inc., Duke Energy Corp. and Time Warner Cable Co.
Space also has received campaign gifts from the family members of registered lobbyists, an apparent loophole that Public Citizen's Craig Holman says is a difference without much of a distinction. Holman said the Space campaign's acceptance of the family-member and corporate PAC contributions 'isn't consistent with the philosophy' of his long-standing pledge to avoid the appearance of being overly cozy with lobbyists.
'Anytime I try to set up some sort of ethics and lobbying restrictions, I try not to limit it to the individual lobbyist him or herself but also to immediate family members ' and spouses in particular,' Holman said. 'If he's taking money from spouses of registered lobbyists, then he is taking money from the family, and that's something difficult to justify.'
[IMGCAP(1)]According to Federal Election Commission records, Space's campaign received a $500 contribution on June 21 from self-described homemaker Frances Hargett. FEC records also show that her Reston, Va., address is used by William J. Hargett of Hargett Consulting, a firm that Secretary of the Senate lobbying records lists as a registered lobbyist for the Parsons Transportation Group.
A message left with the firm was not returned by press time.
Campaign finance records also show that Space contributor Carlynn Rudd wrote a $1,000 check to the campaign on June 21. She is the wife of David Rudd, a lobbyist with the Palmetto Group.
According to Senate lobbying records, this year Rudd has represented Altria Group Inc., BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Comcast, Koch Companies, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Norfolk Southern, United Airlines and Tyco International.
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported this month about the difficulties Space has had in keeping with his pledge. A Thursday report showed that Space's re-election campaign has accepted contributions this year from John Breaux Jr., who works at a firm recently acquired by Patton Boggs, and lobbyist Ray Chambers.
The newspaper reported that Space's campaign returned the Breaux contribution this summer, writing that 'Space does all he can to avoid taking campaign money from lobbyists and returns donations from lobbyists if he learns cash has slipped through.'
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Tory Mazzola criticized the apparent loophole in Space's self-imposed ban and said the lawmaker's ethical lapses 'keep piling up.'
'He broke his pledge to not take lobbyist money and now it seems like he's designed a scheme to further pad his campaign coffers,' Mazzola said in a statement. 'This not only breaks his promise to Eastern Ohioans, it smacks of arrogance and is yet another reason why voters simply cannot trust Zack Space.'
Space spokesman Andrew Ricci said Republicans are 'really desperate' and trying to distract voters from the real issue: rampant unemployment in the Buckeye State. Ricci said his boss 'is voluntarily setting the bar very high.'
'If this is the only thing they have, they're not putting forward ways to create new jobs,' Ricci said. 'Zack is holding himself to a higher standard than almost any other Member of Congress.'