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Donors Asked for Last-Minute Money

October 28, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Charles Rangel, the top Democrat on the House committee that writes tax laws, is a natural magnet for big political donors. Now, he’s using his pull to round up last-minute money for other Democrats.

Rangel, a shoo-in for re-election whose campaign coffers are full, is on the road this week calling and meeting potential contributors.

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away back in Washington, the Republican chief of staff to House National Security chairman Floyd Spence is calling contractors in the defense industry his boss oversees to ask for money for the Republican Party in South Carolina.

It’s all part of a furious effort by both parties to get lawmakers in safe races to dial for dollars and ask industry friends they know best for political contributions.

The trick, sometimes, is to find politically connected solicitors that will be hard to say no to.

Craig Metz, the top aide to Spence, R-S.C., called a list of defense contractors seeking donations ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 for a Republican Party ``Victory ’98″ fund in the lawmaker’s home state.

His call sheet, mistakenly faxed to The Associated Press, shows some of his calls were carefully targeted to players who know the power his boss wields.

When Metz called defense giant Lockheed Martin to ask for $25,000, he talked to the company’s chief of congressional relations, according to his handwritten notations. And when he tapped McDonnell Douglas, he talked to the ``state gov’t liaison,″ the call sheet noted.

Some of the defense contractors he reached said they had to tell him he was too late _ they already had given the maximum they could afford after being solicited by other GOP members of Spence’s committee.

Such calls are perfectly legal. All Metz had to do was walk a few blocks from his House office to the National Republican Congressional Committee to make them.

But critics see the practice as unseemly.

``The pressure is really on,″ said Larry Makinson, head of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit Washington outfit that studies political fund-raising. ``The (Metz) fax is documentary evidence of why this money keeps rolling in. Who in the defense industry wants to say no to the chairman of the House National Security Committee?″

The NRCC, which has set up a suite of offices for their members to make such calls, says it is just democracy in action. It currently is running a $20 million to $25 million ad campaign in House districts to motivate voters to turn out on Election Day this Tuesday. The calls help pay for the blitz dubbed ``Operation Breakout.″

``When we ask the member to do this, they know who they know best and who they have the best relationships with and can get on the phone right away. So they make those decisions themselves,″ NRCC spokeswoman Mary Mead Crawford explained.

On the Democratic side, Rangel is leading a similar effort for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He’s heading on a bus tour to six states, and has for the entire election season worked the phones soliciting donations for others, attending fund-raisers and even going to cities in advance of fund-raisers to meet potential donors.

The top Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel’s own campaign coffer is quickly filled by special interests. He’s given away hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own campaign money to candidates while reaching out to donors to give to colleagues.

``Before I wasn’t in a position to raise the kind of money that I can now as a senior Ways and Means member,″ he said. ``I do give lists of other candidates to people who have maxed out with me.″

Other prominent Democrats are also making calls, including Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, lobbyists say.

Steve Chaudet, vice president for state and local government affairs at defense contractor Lockheed Martin, estimated his office is receiving three or four such phone solicitations a day.

Joyce Taylor, who takes fund-raising calls at defense contractor TRW, has been ``just bombarded with phone calls″ this week.

``My line is just send us something in writing. We just want to get them off the phone,″ she said. ``They are just so persistent.″

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