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Public Citizen Reports Detail Contributions of Influence-Peddlers to Incumbent Members of Congress

Oct. 9, 2006

Public Citizen Reports Detail Contributions of Influence-Peddlers to Incumbent Members of Congress

Interactive Web Site Provides Sums Collected from Lobbyists, PACs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today released 10 state-based reports designed to help voters gauge whether their members of Congress represent the public or big business. Interactive charts are available on a Web site that details the amount of contributions from lobbyists and political action committees to federal lawmakers. Also available are data on the value of privately funded travel accepted by members, the amount of contributions from out-of-state donors and the percentage of contributions from donors who give $200 or less.

The information, packaged into 10 state-based reports titled Under the Influence, Special Interest Money and Members of Congress, is available by clicking here. Currently, the site includes information about lawmakers from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Data about lawmakers in the rest of the states will be released very soon.

Incumbent members of Congress are awash in special interest money. Most members depend on PAC and lobbyist money compared to the amount of small contributions. Many lawmakers rely heavily on out-of-state donors and large contributors. The reports show that most lobbyist money goes to senior, ranking members of Congress or lawmakers who are committee chairs or subcommittee chairs – especially if they are members of the appropriations committee.

Public Citizen unearthed the following about special interest money and members of Congress:

  • Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) ran uncontested in the 2004 election, yet still raised more than $2.6 million, relying largely on PACs. Among members of the California delegation, Thomas received the highest amount of contributions from PACs per cycle ($1.8 million), the second-highest percentage of contributions from out-of-state (71.2 percent) and the third-highest amount of contributions from lobbyists per cycle ($122,980). Since the 2000 election cycle, Thomas received only 18.6 percent of such contributions from small donors (excluding PACs). Nearly half of the California delegation relies on PACs for at least 40 percent of their contributions, including a half-dozen House members whose take from PACs tops 50 percent.
  • Sens. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) are among the top recipients nationwide of campaign cash from lobbyists. From the 2000 election cycle through early 2006, they ranked third, fourth and eighth, respectively, among all members of Congress in accepting K Street largesse.
  • Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) was the highest recipient of contributions from lobbyists in the Ohio congressional delegation, averaging $167,048 per two-year election cycle. Earlier work by Public Citizen showed that Oxley was also the primary beneficiary of more than 75 fundraisers held by Freddie Mac lobbyist Mitch Delk that netted Oxley more than $3 million and resulted in a record-setting $3.8 million fine against Freddie Mac by the Federal Election Commission as a result of a complaint by Public Citizen.  
  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) was the second largest K Street recipient in Ohio, at $147,833 per cycle.
  • Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.),   who was the top recipient of campaign contributions from disgraced super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates, received an average of $162,151 from lobbyists per two-year election cycle, more than any other member of Illinois’ congressional delegation and more than four times as much as any other Illinois House member got from K Street. Hastert received an average of $2.9 million from PACs per cycle. No other member of Illinois’ delegation received an average of as much as $1 million per cycle from PACs.

“This Congress has refused to pass meaningful reform to clean up its act despite public outrage over the constant ooze of scandal from Capitol Hill from the leadership down,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “The database will shed light on which lawmakers are under the influence of special interest money and will inform voters’ choices this November.”

“The numbers reveal lawmakers’ dependence on large corporate donations and lobbyist cash at the expense of smaller donors and individual voters,” said Laura MacCleery, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “We need to take special interest money off the table with a solution that goes to the heart of the problem: a public funding system for all congressional campaigns.”

To read the entire statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook, click here.

To read the entire statement of Laura MacCleery, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, click here.