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When Rep. Buck McKeon (Calif.) beat out two Republican competitors to become ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee in 2009, he assumed weighty responsibility as the top Republican on the committee during two ongoing wars.
But the new perch was good for his campaign coffers, too.
In the 2010 election cycle, McKeon's campaign donations from the defense industry increased 402 percent, from $94,000 in the 2008 cycle to $472,000.
Overall during that period his campaign donations remained relatively stagnant, increasing 3 percent, or by $66,000.
The suddenness of the spike was largely because McKeon transitioned from the top GOP slot on another committee, Education and Workforce.
Data compiled by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington show that, across parties and committees, chairmen and ranking members rely heavily on campaign money from industries under the purview of their committees.
For instance, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the current ranking member of the Financial Services Committee who was chairman of the panel from 2007 to 2011, received $1.13 million from the financial services industry during the 2010 cycle, a 2,610 percent increase from the $42,000 he took from the industry sector in 1998. The donations made up 28 percent of his overall 2010 haul of $4.05 million.
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), previously ranking member and now chairman of the Agriculture Committee, took $444,000 from the agriculture industry in the 2010 cycle, a 531 percent increase since 1998, accounting for 41 percent of his overall 2010 haul.
During the same time period, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), then-chairman of the Agriculture panel, received $650,412 in campaign donations from the agriculture industry, a 711 percent increase from the $80,000 he took from the industry in 1998 and making up 47 percent of his overall 2010 haul.
CREW compiled campaign contribution data tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics, analyzing the donations to chairmen and ranking members of six key House committees. For four other committees, CREW identified committee-related industries. During the 2010 cycle, those 20 chairmen and ranking members received $8.9 million in campaign contributions from the industry sectors under their committees' purviews, which was 27 percent of their overall contributions, according to CREW.
"Everyone talks about how they love $10 Internet donations, but that's not really how they raise money," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director.
The watchdog group also analyzed the voting records of those chairmen and ranking members using data from MapLight.org, which tracks roll-call votes and public records about which stances industry groups took on those votes.
In many cases, the data show chairmen and ranking members voting in line with the preferences of industry sectors under the jurisdiction of their committees more often than with colleagues in their party.
Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) received $1.39 million from the financial services industry during the 2010 election cycle, 620 percent more than he received from the industry in 1998.