Millions In Unsolicited Campaign Funds Flow To Congressional CU Champion

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WILKES BARRE, Penn. – The National Association of REALTORS, one of the beneficiaries of the controversial financial reform bill, have poured more than $1.1 million of unsolicited campaign contributions into the campaign for Congressman Paul Kanjorski over the last week, far more than the 13-term Democrat has spent on his own race through the first 18 months of the campaign, as he fights to fend off a tough fight against Republican Lou Bartletta a third time.

But the REALTORs, who helped push the 73-year-old Kanjorski over the top the last elections, pulled out all of the stops last week, exceeding their 2008 efforts in just a few days, according to Federal Election Commission records. The REALTORs’ political action committee is one of the best-funded in Washington, having spent almost $12 million on congressional campaigns so far during this election cycle, more than three times what CUNA’s well-funded PAC has spent. The REALTORs spent almost $3 million on independent expenditures boosting a dozen congressional allies over the past week, FEC records show. Under federal election laws, those contributions must be conducted independently of the candidate and cannot even be disclosed with those campaigns, so Kanjorski does not know about them.

For Kanjorski, the REALTORs spent $745,000 to produce TV ads touting the senior House member, $366,563 on glossy, full-color mailings to voters, $26,900 for polling and thousands more for services such as consulting and website design and production, the FEC records show.

Kanjorski’s campaign had spent less than $800,000 through the end of July, the last FEC record on file. And Kanjorski’s Republican opponent Barletta spent less than $400,000.

The campaign for Kanjorski, a staunch credit union supporter, is among the latest evidence of a campaign finance system run amok, with Washington interest groups expected to outspend local campaign contributors by multiple times, as they did in 2008 when the Kanjorski narrowly survived a second challenge from Barletta, the 54-year-old mayor of Hazelton.

Elections records also show hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing into the race from Republican members of Congress – many of them serving along side of Kanjorski on the Financial Services Committee – who want to see the tenured lawmaker get knocked off.

In one case, a Republican lawmaker who took credit union contributions, then made a contribution to the campaign of Barletta, who Republicans see as the best chance in years to defeat the long-term Democratic House member.

Kanjorski, who chairs the important House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises, is not only a close ally of the REALTORs, who succeeded in getting a carve-out from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but for years has been the main supporter for credit unions, having sponsored HR 1151, the landmark 1998 CU Membership Access Act, and more recently, the corporate credit union bailout bill of 2009.

Among the contributors to Barletta’s campaign are dozens of right-leaning leadership PACs which are in reality vehicles for Republican lawmakers, many of them long-time colleagues on the Financial Services Committee. Like Pioneer PAC, with is operated by Patrick Tiberi of Ohio; or Jobs, Economy and Budget Fund operated by Jeb Hensarling of Texas. Other Republican committee members working to defeat Kanjorski include: Kevin McCarthy of California, Christopher Lee of New York, and Randy Neugebauer of Texas. Ironically, the REALTORs are also supporting several of these Republicans, having made independent expenditures on behalf of Tiberi last week too.

Continuing Majority Action Committee, a leadership PAC known as CAMPAC for Republican David Camp of Michigan, which received a $5,000 contribution from the Michigan CU League last year, made a contribution to Barletta’s campaign earlier this year, effectively recycling credit union money to defeat the biggest credit union ally in Congress.

Also contributing to the campaign to defeat Kanjorski is the American Bankers Association, the long-time foe of credit unions.

As happened in 2008, the race for Kanjorski’s seat is expected to attract vast amounts of outside money independently of the two candidates in the final days of the campaign as national interest groups seek to sway voters. In the final days of the 2008 campaign, Kanjorski was backed by $834,000 in independent ads by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and $889,000 by the REALTORs, as well as last-minute contributions from WesCorp FCU, Visa USA, Citibank, Harrah's Entertainment and others, according to FEC reports. The Pennsylvania CU Association also spent $57,000 for independent mailings in the final weeks of the campaign on behalf of the 12-term congressman, and NAFCU sent volunteers to go door to door for him.

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