Jack Quinn’s Latest Shocker

Posted September 14, 2004 at 6:51pm

A recent letter by New York Rep. Jack Quinn (R) seeking donations for his newly formed political action committee has rankled some members of Republican House leadership who were already bothered by his surprising retirement from the Democratic-leaning 27th district.

While on its face the formation of a leadership PAC by an outgoing Member is not unusual, several well-connected Republicans said that Quinn’s new organization is simply the latest in a series of decisions by the Congressman that have shown little regard for the GOP’s narrow 12-seat majority.

Quinn insisted that his decision to start a new PAC, known as Quinn PAC, was aimed at allowing him to continue to support a variety of candidates even after he leaves Congress.

“A large number of Members have formed PACs over the years because it gives more flexibility to contribute to Republican candidates,” he said.

Some Republicans argue that Quinn’s actions could be seen as selfish even if he distributes every cent from his leadership PAC to GOP candidates.

First, such a move could be seen as an effort by Quinn to boost his own stature rather than the party as a whole.

Second, Quinn would have far less impact on the most competitive races by handing out $10,000 per district than he would by simply giving a lump sum to the NRCC and letting it spend several times as much where the money is most needed.

One K Street Republican with strong ties to the House leadership pointed out that the new PAC, when coupled with Quinn’s retirement seemingly without thought to a successor and his failure to make a substantial contribution from excess campaign funds to the National Republican Congressional Committee have combined to taint his departure from the House.

“Many people in the leadership believe there is an arrogance and a tin ear that is breathtaking,” the source said.

A Republican Member with ties to leadership said the new PAC “seems a little greedy to me.”

Quinn dismissed concerns that his new fundraising effort will impinge on the money-gathering prospects for Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples (R), who is the Republican nominee to replace him in the Buffalo-area 27th district.

“We certainly thought about that,” said Quinn, who is actively stumping for Naples. “Never ever would we intend to hurt Nancy’s campaign.”

He did concede, however, that “money is never easy to raise so there is always competition.”

Quinn’s new PAC is the latest flashpoint in a behind-the-scenes tussle between the New York Member and some members of House GOP leadership — especially National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) — that began with his retirement announcement in late April.

By all accounts, Quinn’s decision not to seek a seventh term shocked Reynolds, who sits in an adjoining Western New York district and who played a major role in Quinn’s 1992 Congressional victory.

Quinn said that in the days following his announcement he met with every member of leadership to explain why he had decided to leave.

Even so, the district he vacated is a very tough hold for Republicans. The 27th is one of the most Democratic districts currently held by a Republican; then-Vice President Al Gore would have won a 12-point victory there in the 2000 presidential election.

“The right way to leave Congress is to make sure your seat is in safe hands,” said Susan Hirschmann, a former chief of staff to DeLay who is now a lobbyist with Williams & Jensen, in a subtle dig at Quinn.

Another well-connected Republican lobbyist put it more bluntly.

“It was a classless act to leave without having given any consideration or any effort to have a successor lined up,” the source said.

Just two days after Quinn’s retirement, Reynolds delivered a sharp rebuke to the Republican conference that was described as a “wake-up call” by those in attendance. Reynolds urged retiring Members in tough seats to donate the entirety of their remaining war chests to the NRCC.

“Jack left Tom Reynolds in a lurch and hasn’t done anything yet to help the committee,” said a House Republican well-connected in the GOP hierarchy.

Quinn has been approached by NRCC officials to donate a large portion of his $873,000 campaign surplus to the committee and to date has resisted those entreaties, according to knowledgeable sources.

Quinn said that with the conclusion of the New York primaries Tuesday, “I expect to make a contribution to the NRCC.”

Quinn has contributed to 30 House incumbents or challengers so far this cycle and chipped in $15,000 to the NRCC.

He also noted that he has given to past House Republican fundraising efforts including the Retain Our Majority Program run by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas).

One GOP strategist confirmed that in past cycles Quinn has been “a team player.”

“I would suspect a large chunk of his excess campaign funds will find its way to the NRCC,” said the source.

Several other Republican Members leaving safe seats are also being courted for their excess cash, including Reps. Jennifer Dunn (Wash.) and James Greenwood (Pa.), both of whom met with Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) to discuss a large transfer of dollars to the NRCC.

A pitch has been made in recent days to all retiring Republican House Members, including Virginia Rep. Ed Schrock, to donate any remaining campaign cash to the NRCC, according to Republican sources.

“With campaign finance reform, money is certainly tight and we have to use every resource,” said a lawmaker who is close to the NRCC. “This is money that’s already been raised.”

The lawmaker identified Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) as the retiring Member who has been most cooperative about giving his leftover campaign funds to the committee. While Tauzin has long been generous with the NRCC, he has extra motivation this cycle, as his son is running to succeed him in the House.

Despite the initial shock of Quinn’s retirement, Republicans quickly settled on Naples as their candidate and cleared the primary field for her.

Naples has performed well, especially on the fundraising front, with $651,000 in the bank as of Aug. 18. Personally wealthy, Naples has already given $200,000 to the campaign from her own pocket.

Quinn attended an event for Naples Monday night and insists that he is doing everything he can to get her elected, including cutting radio and television commercials on her behalf.

“I am working my heart out for Nancy Naples in all kinds of ways,” Quinn said.

There is clearly some animosity toward the way Quinn has handled his departure from Congress that some in the K Street crowd believe will impact his future job status.

Quinn initially said he was leaving Congress to spend more time at home but is also interviewing for some lobbying positions in Washington.

Quinn said that he hoped any adverse reaction to his retirement would not impact “what our future life is.”

One influential Republican lobbyist, however, had a different prognosis.

“The door is going to be slammed, locked and bolted to Jack Quinn in Washington,” predicted the source. “This is a real message to K Street that this is a guy that doesn’t exercise good judgement in his interactions with House Republicans.”

Ben Pershing contributed to this report.