Boom Town

Posted February 26, 2008 at 6:44pm

House Democrats are set to get a cash infusion from K Street early next month. House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) has invited some of the influence industry’s deepest pockets to join him, all his fellow chairmen, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and former Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Texas) for the 25th anniversary of his Chairman’s Council fundraiser.

[IMGCAP(1)]Dingell and Brooks founded the event in 1983 to enlist their gavel-wielding colleagues in an organized attempt at raising campaign dollars from their downtown allies. Brooks lost his seat in the 1994 Republican revolution that relegated Dingell to ranking member status. But Dingell maintained the event, and its “chairman’s” moniker, throughout Democrats’ 12-year wander in the minority.

Last spring, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other Democratic leaders helped Dingell celebrate the party’s return with a council event at the home of longtime Democratic lobbyist Julie Domenick.

This year, the party shifts to a larger venue: the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. Admission to the March 11 event costs $1,000 a person, but lobbyists who want to be on the host committee need to raise or donate $10,000. So far, that group ranges from K Street vets who witnessed the council’s first days — including Domenick, Andy Athy and Susan Buck — and up-and-comers like Gordon Taylor and Josh Tzuker.

“It’s important to remind people who aren’t contributors what it was like not being in the majority,” Domenick said. “We’re here to keep these people in the majority and keep them chairmen. That’s

what the Chairman’s Council is all about.”

A DCCC official declined to name a fundraising target for the event. The committee expects near-total attendance by House chairmen, most of whom already have confirmed they are coming.

Freudian Slip? Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the political action committee, gave Sen. Ted Stevens, the senior lawmaker up for re-election this year, a check for $1,000 late last month.

The only problem? It was $4,000 less than allowed under federal law.

Stevens, who has confirmed he is under Justice Department investigation, may face credible primary and general election challenges this year.

Stevens’ PAC, the Northern Lights Political Action Committee, had $6,300 left over after sending off checks to Stevens (the candidate), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) — who both received $5,000 checks. Newly appointed Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) also received a check late last month for $4,000.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who has a primary challenger and will face one of three Democrats already campaigning, took home a check for $5,000 from the Stevens PAC.

Tech Bust. The Small Biz Tech Political Action Committee officially shut its doors earlier this month, capping off nearly three years of still-murky transactions involving Justice Department target Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.).

The Federal Election Commission on Feb. 14 granted a request by Bill Canfield, the PAC’s lawyer, to close the committee. The PAC had written only two checks this cycle: a $1,000 contribution last year to Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) losing 2004 presidential campaign and a $162 campaign gift last month to Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

The PAC has been dormant this cycle, but it took in nearly $122,000 between 2005 and 2006, according to campaign finance records.

Never a fundraising powerhouse, the PAC first came under the spotlight two years when The Washington Post detailed how Julia Willis-Leon, Lewis’ stepdaughter and the PAC’s director, had taken home more than one-third of the PAC’s lobbyist-heavy proceeds.

At the time, Lewis was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and former Lewis aide-turned-lobbyist Letitia White was the PAC’s biggest donor, contributing $10,000 to it during the 2005-06 cycle.

White’s firm also shared office space with the PAC.

White was a partner with former Rep. Bill Lowery (R-Calif.) at the since-dissolved firm Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White. Her husband and clients also gave the PAC an additional $22,000, according to the Post piece.

Submit items of interest on money in politics here
.