A Midsummer Donation Spike, With Context

Reports from recent campaign finance reports

There is much that can not be found in publicly available federal campaign finance reports: the identities of all the entities and individuals whose funds fueled the surge in third party ad spending this year; or, a true tally of how much, in all, was spent on the midterm election.

Still, there are stories to be told from these disclosure reports, the most recent of which were filed December 3.

A tip of the hat to the Boston Globe for piecing together, from reports filed by Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), something that “some watchdogs say…deserves public scrutiny” (presumably the Globe finds its finding similarly “deserving”).

From the Globe’s December 12th story:

Campaign contributions to Senator Scott Brown from the financial industry spiked sharply during a critical three-week period last summer as the fate of the Wall Street regulatory overhaul hung in the balance and Brown used the leverage of his swing vote to win key concessions sought by firms.

From mid-June until the Fourth of July, according to a Globe analysis of his campaign finance reports, the Massachusetts senator took in $140,000 from banks and investment firms and their executives, including companies based in the state, such as MassMutual and State Street Corp. That is 400 percent more than the $28,000 received on average by all Republican senators during the same three weeks.

And? Is someone insinuating something? Because, said Brown’s spokeswoman in a prepared statement:

“There is absolutely zero connection between policy and fund-raising. To insinuate otherwise is just plain wrong.”

Protecting jobs in Massachusetts and keeping taxes low, said the spokeswoman, were Brown’s priorities in pushing for changes in the legislation.

More Globe:

Brown’s efforts benefited large Massachusetts companies such as MassMutual Financial Group, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Fidelity Investments, and State Street Corp., whose executives and political action committees contributed $29,000 to Brown during the three-week period he was extracting the concessions from Democrats.

They also benefited major out-of-state institutions such as Goldman Sachs, UBS, and JPMorgan Chase. Those and other out-of-state financial interests gave Brown a total of $50,000 during the period.

And? Is someone suggesting there’s some connection? Because, said a spokesman for the Financial Services Roundtable, “which lists Fidelity, State Street, and JPMorgan Chase among its scores of member firms:”

“There is no connection between money and votes. The industry supports candidates who take a thoughtful approach to the issues facing the industry.’’

The Globe’s “to be sure” paragraph:

Wall Street contributed lavishly to Democrats and Republicans alike for most of the year as it sought to influence deliberations on the sweeping overhaul legislation. But the timing of Brown’s increase in contributions from those sources stands out.

What also “stands out,” observes the Globe, is Brown having “swept into office with the promise of changing the culture in the Capitol by eschewing business as usual and ‘returning Washington to the people.’’’

Speaking of, the Washington Post recently turned its attention to some newly-elected lawmakers who swept into office making similar promises. Here is the lede of the Post’s piece (a report, drawing from recent campaign finance filings, on post-election fundraising):

After Francisco “Quico” Canseco beat Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.) as part of the Republican wave on Nov. 2, the tea party favorite declared: “It’s going to be a new day in Washington.”

Two weeks later, Canseco was in the heart of Washington for a $1,000-a-head fundraiser at the Capitol Hill Club. The event—hosted by Reps. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.)—was aimed at paying off more than $1.1 million in campaign debts racked up by Canseco, much of it from his own pocket.

After winning election with an anti-Washington battle cry, Canseco and other incoming Republican freshmen have rapidly embraced the capital’s culture of big-money fundraisers, according to new campaign-finance reports and other records.

Dozens of freshmen lawmakers have held receptions at Capitol Hill bistros and corporate townhouses in recent weeks, taking money from K Street lobbyists and other powerbrokers within days of their victories. Newly elected House members have raised at least $2 million since the election, according to preliminary Federal Election Commission records filed last week, and many more contributions have yet to be tallied.

These “aggressive” post-election fundraising efforts, says the Post, “underscore the financial pressures facing new members of Congress even before they take their seats” and also “represent a symbolic challenge for the Republican class of 2010, many of whom gained office by running against the ways of official Washington and monied interests.”

The fundraising push is pragmatic, Republican officials and legislative aides told the Post, as new House members must

take care of debts from 2010 so they can turn their attention to…

…the critical concerns of constituents?

… the next [election/fundraising] cycle, according to aides and campaign-finance experts.

As for this past cycle, and all that debt incurred therein? Among the names, spotted by the Post in disclosure reports, assisting freshmen lawmakers with that debt: Rolls-Royce, Verizon Communications,Yum Brands Inc.

And about changing Washington and all that? One political consultant who raises money for ten GOP freshmen “scoffed at the idea that accepting money from corporate PACs and lobbyists is at odds with the anti-Washington message of the 2010 class,” telling the Post:

“These guys ran against Washington, but they ran against the bad parts of Washington—the bloated bureaucracy and Nancy Pelosi’s agenda. That’s not a contradiction to take money from a trade group or corporation that represents free-enterprise principles.”

So, anti-Washington (but, just the “bad parts”).

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR. Tags: , , , ,