U.S. House Members Use Committee Positions to Finance Campaigns

U.S. House members facing primary contests against a fellow lawmaker are getting campaign money from industries they oversee in their committee assignments.

Republican Representative John Mica of Florida had more than twice as much to spend than Representative Sandy Adams at the beginning of this month in part because of donations from industries affected by his position as chairman of the House Transportation Committee. They are running against each other for the Republican nomination in a newly drawn district after the 2010 Census.

California Democrat Howard Berman, a member of the House Judiciary subcommittee that writes copyright laws, has received more donations from the movie, broadcasting and technology industries than any other source in his intraparty race against Representative Brad Sherman.

Campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission detail the contributions for incumbent-versus-incumbent races that come from industries affected by decisions made by the committees on which the lawmakers serve.

“Those who control the levers of power on congressional committees are first in line for support,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign contributions. “It’s a very clear correlation.”

Transportation PACs

Mica, 69, had $1.2 million in his campaign bank account through March 31 as he raised $1.2 million for his re-election. He was helped by $242,300 from transportation political action committees, more than one-third of all his PAC donations, according to FEC filings and the Center for Responsive Politics.

“If you’re chairman of a major committee, people within your jurisdiction are going to be attracted to support you,” said former U.S. Transportation Secretary James Burnley, a partner in the law and lobbying firm Venable LLP, whose clients include AMR Corp.’s American Airlines.

Mica “has developed deep and broad subject-matter enterprise” in transportation and had many years to build relationships with industry representatives, Burnley said.

Adams, 55, raised $730,703 through March 31, lent her campaign $100,000 and had $459,305 in cash on hand. She raised $15,000 from transportation PACs.

In California, Berman, 71, a member of the subcommittee on intellectual property, competition and the Internet, received more than $115,000 in donations from communications and technology company PACs, his biggest source of industry donations.

Insurance, Real Estate

Fellow Democrat Sherman, 57, is a member of the House Financial Services Committee and has received almost $150,000 from the financial, insurance and real estate industry PACs, his top source of money.

Through March 31, Berman raised $3 million and had $2.5 million in the bank. Sherman received $2 million, including a $250,000 personal loan, and reported $4.1 million in cash on hand.

In a primary between freshman Republicans in Arizona, Ben Quayle raised $1.3 million, while David Schweikert received $1.2 million. Quayle entered April with more in the bank, $972,000 to $812,000.

The son of former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle, the 35-year-old congressman received $5,000 donations from former Treasury Secretary John Snow and Stephen Feinberg, who runs the New York-based private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP. He received $1,000 from Washington lobbyist Charlie Black, an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Eight-Term Democrats

Schweikert, 50, a member of the Financial Services Committee, raised $245,800 from financial, insurance and real estate PACs through March 31 while Quayle brought in $40,800.

Representatives Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, both eight-term Democrats, each raised more than $1 million for their re-election campaigns, including more than $500,000 apiece from January to March.

Pascrell, 75, a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, took in $1.4 million, while Rothman, 59, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, which writes the spending bills, received $1.1 million.

Both men received donations in the last three months from General Electric Co., based in Fairfield, Connecticut, and Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp.

Jennifer Whitlow, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman, declined to comment. A General Electric spokesman, Gary Sheffer, said most of the donations were made before redistricting.

-- Editors: Laurie Asseo, Don Frederick

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