Committee Members Cash In On Power
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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The last time Rep. Harold Rogers ran for re-election, the airline industry’s trade group didn’t open its checkbook for the Kentucky Republican. Nor did the air traffic controllers union and the airports’ organization.
Then Rogers became chairman of the House subcommittee that spends billions of dollars on aviation. His campaign treasury now includes donations from political action committees representing airlines, airports and controllers.
Rogers and other first-term chairmen of House committees and subcommittees are cashing in on their new power, filling their campaign coffers for 2002 with donations from the industries they now oversee.
``This shows us the value of the committee chairmanships,″ said Anthony Corrado, professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. ``Because of the influence they have over the agenda of the committee, they are a particular focal point for special interests.″
For example, these facts and figures from the Federal Election Commission:
_Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, took in $264,200 from transportation PACs last year, more than the $216,237 he raised from the industry during the two years before his 2000 re-election. More than half of Young’s PAC money came from the transportation industry last year, as compared with one-third for his previous campaign, when he was the committee’s second-ranked Republican.
_Bob Stump, R-Ariz., the Armed Services chairman, raised 46 percent of his PAC money in 2001 from the defense industry, compared with 31 percent for his 2000 campaign. He also has been the panel’s second-ranked Republican.
_Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, doubled the percentage of his donations from banking, insurance and real estate PACs once he became Financial Services Committee chairman. He raised 60 percent of his PAC money from those industries in 2001, as compared with 30 percent in 1999-2000.
``There’s little pretext left in Washington about why people give money,″ said Larry Makinson, senior fellow with the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group. ``They give money because their industry is affected by your decisions and they want to be your friend.″
Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee, raised 23 percent of his PAC money from transportation sources in 1999-2000 but raised 59 percent from the industry in 2001.
He raised $119,188 from transportation PACs in 2001, more than the $80,500 he took in from the industry between January 1999 and December 2000.
From air transportation interests, Rogers received $1,000 from the Air Transport Association, the trade group for the major airlines; $2,000 from Airports Council International-North America; and $4,000 from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
``All I can presume is they support his re-election,″ said Rogers’ chief of staff, Kevin Fromer. ``They know of him, they know of his work and want to support him.″
Transportation issues have captured Congress’ attention. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, lawmakers approved $15 billion in grants and loan guarantees for the airline industry, then passed a new airline security bill. This year, road builders are fighting President Bush’s proposal to cut almost $9 billion in federal highway money.
Industry officials said they are backing their allies.
``Naturally, we’d want to support people who place a high value on transportation,″ said Joseph Manero, a spokesman for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, whose PAC contributed $1,000 to Rogers.
Air Transport Association spokesman Michael Wascom said there was no connection between his group’s donation and Rogers’ chairmanship.
``Mr. Rogers has been a friend of aviation and warrants our support,″ Wascom said. ``Just as an individual supports a candidate who shares his or her beliefs, we will continue to support candidates who support our beliefs, whether they be committee chairman or simply members.″
On the Net: Center for Responsive Politics: http://www.opensecrets.org
House Appropriations Committee: http://www.house.gov/appropriations
Air Transport Association: http://www.airlines.org
American Road and Transportation Builders Association: http://www.artba.org