In this week's Fair Game, we touched on Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) use of a "leadership PAC" to collect contributions from corporate and union political action committees.
As we noted, only a slim minority (14 percent) of the $136,000 he raised in his traditional campaign account last quarter came from special interest groups. But a majority (70 percent) of the $197,000 he raised for Green Mountain PAC during the first half of the year came from those sources.
We focused in the column on contributions Leahy reaped from the aerospace and weapons industry. But that's not the only sector forking over the dough. Here's a sampling of other groups who contributed $2500 or more to Green Mountain PAC during the first six months of 2013:
Labor: IBEW ($5000), Laborers' Political League ($2500), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers ($5000)
Banking: Bank of America ($2500), Deloitte ($5000)
Entertainment: Directors Guild of America ($2500), National Association of Broadcasters ($3500), News America/FOX ($2500), Commissioner of Major League Baseball ($5000), Sony Pictures ($5000), Walt Disney ($2500), Viacom ($2500)
Telecom/Cable: Comcast/NBC ($5000), DirecTV ($2500), EchoStar/Dish Network ($2500), National Cable and Telecommunications Association ($5000), Verizon ($2500)
Law: Alston & Bird ($5000), American Association for Justice ($5000), DLA Piper ($2500)
Aerospace/Military: Boeing ($5000), General Dynamics ($5000), Lockheed Martin ($2500), Raytheon ($2500), United Technologies ($3500)
Technology: GoDaddy ($2500), Microsoft ($5000), Netflix ($2500)
Beverage: Miller Coors ($2500), National Beer Wholesalers ($500O), Wine and Spirits Wholesalers ($5000)
Again, those are just contributions to Green Mountain PAC. Some of those very same organizations also gave money to the senator's traditional campaign account. For instance, General Dynamics gave another $1000 to the Leahy for U.S. Senator Committee; GoDaddy gave another $2000; and Raytheon gave another $1000.
When we asked Leahy political aide Carolyn Dwyer whether it was problematic that 70 percent of the cash raised by Green Mountain PAC came from special interests, she chose to see it another way. When you look at the total number of donors, she said, "87 percent of those contributing were individuals."
It's worth noting, though, that many such individuals are affiliated with organizations that might want to curry favor with a member of Congress.
For instance, among those real people donating to Green Mountain PAC were: Duberstein Group lobbyist Michael Berman ($2500); Recording Industry Association of America CEO Cary Sherman; Putala Strategies lobbyist Christopher Putala ($2500); and former FBI director Louis Freeh ($2500), now a partner at Pepper Hamilton LLP.
So where's all that money going?
The purpose of Green Mountain PAC, according to its website, is to "help our most talented candidates build strong, winning campaigns — and maintain [Democratic] control of the Senate in 2014." Indeed, $88,000 of the $210,000 the PAC distributed during the first half of the year went to Senate Democrats. Recipients included Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Jeff Merkley (D-Oreg.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
That's the point of a "leadership PAC" after all. Established politicians raise money and dole it out to their allies, securing loyalty from their colleagues and ensuring their party remains in power.
"Electing a Democratic majority in 2012 meant Sen. Leahy was able to maintain his leadership of the Judiciary Committee, which this year alone has passed the Violence Against Women Act and comprehensive immigration reform — among others on its full calendar of work," Dwyer said.
But not all the money Leahy raises through Green Mountain PAC goes to fellow Senate Dems. In fact, even more of it ($101,000) went to the PAC's operational expenses, which include sustaining Leahy's political team.
Dwyer, who serves as the senator's campaign manager during reelection years and as his go-to political staffer during the off years, received $24,000 from the PAC during the first half of the year. J.P. Dowd, Leahy's chief of staff, received $3000. The PAC paid Campaign Finance Consultants nearly $52,000 and technology vendor Trilogy Interactive $11,500.
"Green Mountain PAC serves its mission to elect Democrats in several ways," Dwyer explains. "In addition to direct contributions to candidates, GMP also does email solicitations that send funds and supporters directly to candidates and works to expand a nationwide network of Democratic supporters. The staff who support these efforts are paid by GMP, as is required by law."