GOP Leads in Early Senate PAC Giving

Posted August 3, 2009 at 6:20pm

Six months into the 2010 election cycle, Republican Senators are outpacing their Democratic counterparts in leadership political action committee fundraising, contributions and cash-on-hand totals, according to recently filed reports with the Federal Election Commission.

The five leading Senate PAC fundraisers from Jan. 1 to June 30 were all Republicans. GOP Senators occupied the top three slots in leadership PAC cash on hand as of June 30. And when it comes to leadership PAC donations to federal candidates and committees, Republicans are also leading the way.

Of the seven Senate PACs that gave out $100,000 or more in contributions to other candidates and party committees from January through June, five are Republican.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) led the Senate in PAC giving, doling out $185,000 to federal candidates and committees. Retiring Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) was third in overall giving with $140,000 in contributions to federal candidates from KITPAC. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) checked in at fourth overall with $115,000 in donations from his ALAMO PAC. GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) were the other two Republicans who gave $100,000 or more to candidates and committees in the first six months of the year.

The top Democratic contributors were Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), who doled out $155,000 in donations from his Glacier PAC, good enough for second place among all Senators. Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), a subcommittee chairman on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, ranked fifth overall in leadership PAC donations in the first half of the year with about $112,000 from his America Works PAC.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is up for re-election in 2010 and is a top target of national Republicans, distributed just $55,000 from his Searchlight Leadership Fund in the first half of the year for 23rd place among Senate PACs.

Members can also contribute to their colleagues and candidates through their individual campaign accounts; however, federal contribution limits are higher for PACs.

Unlike candidate fundraising committees, which are required to report every quarter, Members can choose their reporting frequency when it comes to their leadership PACs. So, for example, while Sen. Bob Bennett’s (R-Utah) SNOW PAC submits monthly reports, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) decided earlier this year to file semi-annual reports for his Prairie PAC.

As such, midyear reports offer the first opportunity to compare the activities of all leadership PACs.

With $174,000 in receipts, Cornyn raised slightly more money in the first six months of the year than Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) did for his New Millennium PAC. Menendez raised about $164,000 for his leadership PAC and doled out $65,000 in contributions to federal candidates and committees. But with just over $374,000 in the bank as of June 30, Menendez ranked fifth among all Senators in cash on hand. Menendez’s cash total ranked just behind Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who reported a little more than $407,000 in cash for his All America PAC. Cornyn spent most of the money that came into his PAC, and he ended June with about $14,000 cash in ALAMO PAC.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) submitted one of the most interesting midyear PAC reports following his party switch on April 28. In the two months following that switch, Specter ingratiated himself with his new colleagues by doling out more than $40,000 in checks from his Big Tent PAC to Democrats.

In late May, Specter cut Reid’s campaign committee two checks totaling $10,000 and then doled out $15,000 to the DSCC in June. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also got $10,000 from Specter’s PAC in late June.

According to his midyear report, Specter’s last PAC donation to a Republican committee came on Feb. 2, when he gave $1,800 to the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania.

The most prolific Senate PAC fundraiser in the six-month period was Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund, which raised more than $797,000. But as the Senate Conservatives Fund demonstrates, not all the money that Senators raise for their PACs is given out as contributions.

A major portion of fundraising for DeMint’s PAC came from the expensive process of direct-mail solicitation. The PAC spent $849,000 from January through June on operating costs. At the same time, the PAC doled out a little more than $18,000 in contributions to federal candidates and committees, and it spent another $9,000 on independent expenditures. The Senate Conservatives Fund ended last month with just $34,000 in cash on hand.

Baucus’ Glacier PAC was the top Democratic PAC in receipts for the first half of the year, with about $298,000 raised. With a little more than $153,000 in the bank, Glacier PAC was also in the top 20 Senate PACs in cash on hand as of June 30.

But when it comes to money in the bank, no Senator comes close to Banking ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). Shelby’s Defend America PAC reported $2.16 million in cash on hand at the end of June. The next-closest Senator was Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), whose Senate Victory Fund reported about $789,000 in cash on hand at the end of June.

Shelby is known for amassing huge piles of campaign cash. The $14.81 million sitting in his Senate campaign account as of June 30 is the envy of most every other Member of Congress.

Despite his mountains of money, Shelby has proved to be stingy when it comes to contributions. Shelby raised more than $104,000 in the first half of 2009 for his PAC, yet he doled out about $52,000 in candidate contributions in the same time period.