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K Street Quietly Comes to Dingell’s Aid

Although Waxman’s move to wrest control of the committee from Dingell appeared to catch the Michigan lawmaker by surprise, rumors have been swirling for weeks that Waxman might make a move for the enviable post.

Both Waxman and Dingell have long had financial support from industry as the No. 1 and No. 2 Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Coming from the home state of the Big Three automakers, Dingell has received more than $625,000 over the past two decades from automakers, more money than all other Members of the House have received from the industry since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Waxman has also had generous contributions from industry, including insurance company Aflac, the American Hospital Association, and the American Medical Association, all of which have large stakes in the upcoming health care debate.

Both Members also have leadership political action committees, which can be used to curry favor with fellow Members. Since opening the Wolverine PAC in June, Dingell has spread the wealth to colleagues, contributing about $80,000 to moderate incumbents and challengers, according to CQ MoneyLine.

Waxman has long had a leadership PAC, founding LA PAC in the late 1970s. He has contributed about $238,000 to Democrats this cycle.

While walking softly is the norm downtown in leadership races, the National Mining Association is one industry group openly supporting Dingell’s retention of the chairmanship.

“It strikes us that Chairman Dingell is more likely coming from Detroit to have a sensitivity to the current economic plight of the country when he looks at the various serious issues before the committee than Mr. Waxman, who is from Beverly Hills,” NMA spokesman Luke Popovich said.

The Sportsmen’s and Animal Owners’ Voting Alliance has also come out in support of Dingell. In an e-mail blast to more than 22,000 members, SAOVA urged its grass-roots network to contact their Member of Congress about what they argue is an important voice of moderation.

“He’s a voice of moderation where the large California cabal is scary as hell,” said Bob Kane, chairman emeritus of SAOVA.

However, not every Dingell ally is getting into the thick of things. The auto industry, for one, has taken a backseat in the gavel race.

While K Street lobbyists say there is little doubt which lawmaker the industry supports, the Big Three automakers are focused on trying to secure a government bailout.

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