Barbour’s Pipeline To the Hill

Posted September 8, 2003 at 6:56pm

GOP lobbyist Haley Barbour has used his gubernatorial campaign in Mississippi to open a two-way fundraising street with Members of Congress, raking in large dollars from their PACs while still doling out his own contributions to their committees.

Creating a Members-only account to make Congressional giving as easy as possible, Barbour has received the financial support of more than two dozen GOP Members of Congress for his Nov. 4 race against Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D). Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chairman whose lobbying firm has been one of the most lucrative in the District of Columbia in the past five years, has raked in close to $100,000 from Members’ re-election and leadership political action committees, according to Federal Election Commission and Mississippi secretary of state records.

In addition, the biggest Beltway Republican draw of them all — President Bush — will be in Jackson on Friday to help Barbour raise roughly $1.5 million in a capital city event that will push the GOP campaign ahead of a fundraising pace that was originally slated for $8 million.

“He’s a great national leader. Haley has a lot of friends here [in Washington], people that like him,” said Sen. George Allen (Va.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Allen, who credits Barbour’s support as RNC chairman for his gubernatorial victory in 1993, cut a $5,000 check in May that went to the Congress for Haley Barbour PAC, a special committee for Members to give to the lobbyist-turned-politician’s campaign.

Always keen to the interests of Members of Congress, Barbour set up the special political action committee as an easier fundraising vehicle through which Congressional leadership PACs and re-election committees can give their contributions, according to GOP aides in Washington. If an out-of-state political committee gives to a candidate in the Magnolia State, that committee must file paperwork and register the PAC there.

By giving instead to the Congress for Haley Barbour PAC, for example, Allen’s leadership PAC was able to give $5,000 without filing any paperwork in Mississippi, and the money was then transferred into the official Barbour for Governor account.

As of June 30, the last day for which Congress for Haley Barbour reported its finances in Mississippi, Members had kicked in $56,000 to the PAC. In late July, according to FEC reports, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) gave another $5,000 to Congress for Haley Barbour, bringing the total to at least $61,000 in donations from non-Mississippi Members of Congress.

In addition, members of the Mississippi Congressional delegation, whose PACs and re-election committees are already registered there, kicked in at least $31,000 directly to Barbour for Governor. Mississippi Sens. Trent Lott (R) and Thad Cochran (R) have each given Barbour $15,000, with Lott’s money coming straight from his leadership PAC and Cochran mixing $10,000 from his leadership PAC and $5,000 from his re-election committee.

Barbour made his first major foray into fundraising from Members and D.C.-based lobbyists at a May 7 event in the District, one that allowed many Members to repay Barbour for what they consider his generous help while he was at the RNC.

Of the 25 Members who have given to Barbour’s campaign so far, 11 of them won critical statewide or Congressional races from 1993 through 1996, while Barbour chaired the RNC. They include Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Jon Kyl’s (Ariz.) 1994 win and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) first successful Congressional bid in 1996. (Kyl and Blunt each gave $5,000 to Congress for Haley Barbour.)

In what is shaping up as a neck-and-neck race, Barbour will need every edge he can get in finances. As of July 29, he had raised more than $4.9 million, $1.6 million more than Musgrove this year, but was far behind in cash on hand: $2 million for Barbour compared to Musgrove’s $4 million.

Some Members are doing more than just cutting checks from their PACs for Barbour. Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), who gave $1,000 to Barbour, has also raised about $50,000 for the gubernatorial campaign from Mississippi and Washington donors, according to aides.

Pickering, elected to the House in 1996, is close to the Barbour family; his Congressional campaign manager has been Henry Barbour, the nephew of the gubernatorial candidate who is managing that campaign as well.

Lott, who helped push Barbour for the RNC chairmanship a decade ago, said he has co-hosted several events and receptions for his old friend’s campaign.

Even as he’s spent the majority of his time in Mississippi this year campaigning, Barbour has continued to be a large donor to Congressional Republicans.

In the first seven months of the year, he dished out $20,000 in donations to 13 different re-election committees or leadership PACs, including some of the same lawmakers who gave money to his campaign.

Lott, for example, received $5,000 from Barbour for his leadership PAC on July 30, FEC records show. The next day Lott’s PAC, the New Republican Majority Fund, cut its own $5,000 check to Barbour for Governor, upping the PAC’s total to $15,000 in donations to the Barbour campaign. Rep. Jim McCrery’s (R-La.) leadership PAC gave Congress for Haley Barbour $5,000 on May 20, and Barbour wrote a personal $1,000 check to McCrery’s PAC three weeks later.

Aides to Barbour’s campaign could not be reached for comment.

Barbour has maintained his ties to Barbour, Griffith and Rogers but has done little if any work of late for the lobbying firm. His campaign donations have gone to some key GOP players in Congress, including $500 to Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and $2,000 to Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Barbour also gave $333 to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security who is angling to become full committee chairman next Congress.

On May 22, one week after freshman Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) opened his Daniel Webster PAC, Barbour gave $333 to Sununu’s leadership PAC.GOP lobbyist Haley Barbour has used his gubernatorial campaign in Mississippi to open a two-way fundraising street with Members of Congress, raking in large dollars from their PACs while still doling out his own contributions to their committees.