Dave Camp, the top Republican tax writer in Congress, has built the biggest campaign fund in the U.S. House of Representatives even as no Democrat has announced plans to run against him in 2014.
The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee began July with a $3.04 million campaign balance after raising $788,759 in the second quarter from donors including General Electric Co. (GE) and Microsoft Corp., Federal Election Commission reports in Washington show.
Camp’s fundraising underscores his central role in bipartisan talks about revising the U.S. tax code and as the top-ranking member on a committee that’s renowned as a magnet for campaign contributions.
Representatives Aaron Schock, an Illinois Republican whose $2.9 million campaign treasury is the second biggest in the House, and Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat whose $2.8 million fund is the third biggest, also sit on Ways and Means.
With Camp and top tax writers saying “the tax code might be opened up for re-writing, that’s just an invitation for people to pour as much money as they can into your campaign,” said Viveca Novak, editorial and communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign donations.
At most, what political donations give companies “is access,” said Dave Kautter, managing director of the Kogod Tax Center at American University in Washington. “It doesn’t get you the outcome that you want. It gives you the opportunity, more than someone else, to make your case,” he said.
Camp, 60, doesn’t need the money. He has received more than 60 percent of the vote in all 12 of his Michigan general elections, dating to 1990. He won 63 percent in 2012. Democrats have never seriously targeted him, and none have filed to challenge him in next year’s midterm election.
Even so, he more than doubled the $362,154 he raised in the first quarter, according to the latest reports. Camp took in $554,261 from April to June from political action committees, many of them linked to companies that have a stake in how a tax-code rewrite would be designed.
Sage Eastman, a spokesman for Camp, declined to comment on the campaign-finance report.
The chairman has said he wants to revise the individual and corporate parts of the code to broaden the tax base and lower top rates to 25 percent. He has proposed a territorial system that would exempt from taxation most overseas profits of U.S.- based companies. He would require the companies to pay a 5.25 percent tax rate on their accumulated foreign earnings.
General Electric, which led all U.S. companies with $108 billion in accumulated untaxed profits overseas in 2012, contributed $1,000 to Camp in April through its PAC, in addition to the $3,500 it donated in March. Federal campaign law allows most PACs to give up to $5,000 for a primary election and $5,000 for a general election, even if an incumbent isn’t challenged.
GE and Citigroup Inc. (C), which made a $2,500 PAC donation to Camp in April, are among the companies that would benefit most from a territorial tax system, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis.
Ford Motor Co.’s PAC donated $2,500 to Camp on April 3, two days after its head of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs, sent a letter with 17 other executives from large U.S. companies urging Camp and others in Congress to act on legislation that cuts corporate rates.
“You’ve got everyone from financial interests who are worried about carried interest and how that’s treated, to mortgage companies worried about the mortgage interest deduction, to beer and wine companies worried about excise taxes, you name it,” Novak said. “There is really no interest in the country practically who is not concerned about the tax code.”
The tax code “has its own ecosystem,” Kautter said. “Once you touch one part of that ecosystem, it has effects that are direct and are indirect, some of which you can easily anticipate and some you just don’t imagine until a year or two later.”
With Democrats and Republicans agreeing that corporate tax revisions should be revenue-neutral, businesses are “competing against other businesses” and “the immediacy of trying to make your case becomes more overt,” Kautter said.
Any effort to revise tax laws in the current 113th Congress would need the support of the Republican-led House, the Democratic-run Senate and President Barack Obama.
Camp and Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who leads the Senate Finance Committee, are trying to build public support for a code rewrite on a “tax reform tour” that took them to the headquarters of 3M Co. in Maplewood, Minnesota, on July 8. Camp and Baucus plan to speak to small-business owners in Philadelphia on July 29.
“Tax reform will be bold,” Camp said in an interview last week. “There’s no other way to do it, so we’ll just see how bold everybody wants to be.”
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