Anti-D.C. Candidates Still Want K Street Cash

Posted May 19, 2010 at 6:35pm

It’s hip to be anti-Washington.

Just ask Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) and his Republican opponent, former Rep. Pat Toomey.

Both ran as anti-establishment candidates to secure their primary victories this week to face off in what is expected to be a tight race to replace longtime Sen. Arlen Specter (D).

But just because they are swearing their allegiance as outsiders doesn’t mean either is shunning the Beltway completely, especially when it comes to fundraising.

While Sestak told a crowd of supporters Tuesday that his primary victory over Specter marked a “win for the people over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C.,” he has already looked to Democratic power brokers like Gerald Cassidy, founder of Cassidy & Associates, and Cassidy’s wife, Loretta, for political contributions to help him end Specter’s 30-year Senate career.

Cassidy and his wife each contributed $2,400 in March to Sestak’s campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records.

And they weren’t the only K Streeters to put their financial support behind the two-term lawmaker. Lobbyists Michael Levy of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and Dan Tate of Dan Tate LLC also contributed to his campaign.

Sestak, who spent three decades in the Navy before entering politics, also received contributions from defense industry lobbyists such as Randall West of Robison International and Gary Hall of Potomac Advocates, and from the political action committees of big defense contractors such as Raytheon Co.

The majority of the $6.1 million Sestak raised as of the end of April came from inside Pennsylvania, according to FEC reports. Sestak spokesman Joe Langdon did not provide a comment by press time.

Still, several Democratic lobbyists said they expect to see even more of an uptick in Sestak’s Washington fundraising.

“I fully expect him to be reaching out to people downtown now that we are moving towards the general,” one Democratic lobbyist said.

“I think people will also be happy to reach out to him too,” the lobbyist added, noting that there is a lot more excitement about Democrats’ ability to hold the seat with Sestak, as opposed to former GOPer Specter, on the ticket.

While most of his money will come from Pennsylvanians, one Democratic fundraiser estimated that Sestak could draw about $2 million from lobbyists and PACs to help finance what is expected to be a hotly contested race.

Toomey, a former Congressman from Allentown, campaigned as an anti-Washington tea party conservative to best Republican activist Peg Lusik to claim the Republican slot on the ticket.

So far, his fundraising is also decidedly less Washington-based than it was when he was an elected official. As a Member of Congress, Toomey took contributions from industry groups such as the American Bankers Association, Altria, Alticor and Accenture.

Still, the former head of the anti-tax group Club for Growth is looking to Washington to help raise a war chest to take back Specter’s seat for Republicans.

More than 30 lobbyists, including Kirk Blalock of Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, David French of the National Retail Federation, Dave Hoppe of Quinn Gillespie & Associates and Linda Tarplin of Tarplin, Downs & Young, are hosting a fundraiser for Toomey on Wednesday.

In February, several powerful Washingtonians, including former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis (R), who is now at Ernst & Young, and American Council of Life Insurers President Frank Keating, hosted a fundraiser for Toomey. He’s also invigorated young professionals, such as Peck, Madigan Jones & Stewart’s Drew Cantor and Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s Mathew Lapinski, who hosted an event for him in March.

The Republican establishment is also behind Toomey.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and his deputies, Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.), are scheduled to attend Wednesday’s cocktail reception and dinner for Toomey, according to the invite. Co-hosts are expected to contribute $5,000, while others are asked to spend $2,500 per PAC or $1,200 for individuals to attend the reception and dinner. Sen Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is also supporting Toomey, headlining a fundraising lunch in mid-June.

“Our campaign has had enormous fundraising success, with over 50,000 individual contributors,” Toomey spokesman Tim Kelly said of his boss’s fundraising strategy. “We welcome support from everyone who agrees with Pat’s vision of limited government and more job creation.”

Toomey had raised $8.2 million as of the end of April, with $4.6 million in cash on hand, according to FEC reports.

Republican lobbyists said they are optimistic about Toomey’s chances to take the Senate seat.

“The mood is very positive,” one Republican lobbyist said. “It’s going to continue to be once people understand that Sestak is not in line with Pennsylvania voters.”