Saturday, August 4, 2001
Senate takeover means big donations for prominent Democrats
By Sharon Theimer
WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats cashed in quickly on their new power, taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors within days of taking over the chamber.
In June, Tom Harkin of Iowa raised nearly half the money his campaign has collected this year as farm interests flooded him with donations during his first month as chairman of the Agriculture Committee, new Federal Election Commission reports show.
Two senators with possible presidential aspirations experienced similar good fortune.
John Edwards of North Carolina raised more in June than in the five previous months combined. Massachusetts' John Kerry collected $1.1 million after taking over the Senate Small Business Committee.
Democrats were energized by the party's new ability to set the Senate agenda, and the contributions "reflected a desire to keep it that way after 2002," said David Wade, a spokesman for Kerry.
The sudden influx of donations indicates "once the power shifts, so does the money," campaign finance expert Larry Makinson said.
The same occurred in late 1994 and early 1995, after Republicans unexpectedly swept control of both chambers of Congress. Special interests spread donations around to the new committee chairmen - then and now.
For instance, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the new chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, filed a fund-raising report this week that was 800 pages long. Among other things, it detailed a half million dollars in donations in June.
More than half of Baucus' June donations came from political action committees. Several gave $5,000, including the National Retail Federation PAC and the National Beer Wholesalers, Bank One Corp., and American Express PACs.
Baucus spokesman Mike Siegel said the senator's new chairmanship "does not change the dynamic of fund raising one bit" as he prepares for the 2002 election.
Similarly, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden of Delaware raised more than half the $726,775 his campaign has collected this year in June.
Harkin raised more than $470,000 in June, nearly half his contributions for the year, including about $180,000 from PACs. Many donations had ties to agribusiness.