Donors Asked for Last-Minute Money
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Craig Metz, the chief of staff to House National Security Committee Chairman Floyd Spence, worked the telephone this week to reach out to key players in the defense industry his boss oversees. His mission wasn’t to talk business _ it was to raise money.
All across Washington, lawmakers or their top aides in both parties who are in safe races are hitting the phones calling the industry friends they know best for last minute get-out-the-vote dollars.
On Monday, Metz solicited 17 players in the defense industry for donations ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 for a Republican Party ``Victory ’98″ fund in Spence’s home state of South Carolina.
His call sheet, mistakenly faxed to The Associated Press, shows some of his calls were carefully targeted to players who know the power that 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.
Metz’s calls are perfectly legal. All he had to do was walk a few blocks from his House office to the National Republican Congressional Committee to make them. Democrats are making such calls in equal numbers.
But critics see the practice as unseemly.
``The pressure is really on,″ said Larry Makinson, head of the Center for Reponsive Politics, a nonprofit Washington group 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 office 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. 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 Crawford Meade explained.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York is leading a similar effort, traveling the country and hitting the phones to raise money for his colleagues. As the top Democrat on the powerful, tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel’s own campaign coffer is quickly filled by special interests and he knows donors can be receptive to his pleas for money for others.
``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.″
A shoo-in for re-election, Rangle also has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own campaign warchest. Other prominent Democrats are also making calls, including Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, lobbyists say.
Metz said the South Carolina GOP gave him the list of names he called Monday and he had to take leave from his federal job to cover the time he spent. He said he simply told the potential donors they’d be getting follow-up information from party fund-raisers.
Some of the contractors he called told him they had already been solicited by other lawmakers _ including some on the same National Security Committee _ and had given the maximum they could afford.
``Any member on either side of the aisle, Republican or Democrat, who is not in a real competitive race is being ask by both parties to raise money,″ said Steve Chaudet, vice president for state and local government affairs at defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
Chaudet estimates his office is receiving three or four such phone solicitations a day. As for Metz, ``we just told him we already have given,″ Chaudet explained.
Another official at a major defense contractor who fielded a call from Metz on Monday said it was the last of several his company had received from members of Spence’s committee, which oversees defense issues.
Joyce Taylor, who takes fund-raising calls at defense contractor TRW, is ``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.″