POLL: LONG-TIME CU CHAMP KANJORSKI ON THE ROPES

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WILKES-BARRE, Penn.-A new voter poll released last week shows Democrat Paul Kanjorski, the staunchest credit union ally in Congress, trailing his Republican challenger Lou Barletta going into the final two weeks of the campaign.

The 13-term incumbent defeated Barletta, the mayor of Hazelton, two times before, including in 2008 by 52% to 48%.

The new poll, conducted by Franklin and Marshall's Center for Politics and Public Affairs, shows Kanjorski trailing behind among likely voters by 47% to 40%; with 12% undecided. Among all registered voters, Barletta leads 45% to 38%, with 16% undecided. Among registered voters, 36% rated Kanjorski's job performance as "excellent" or "good,'' and 36% say he deserves reelection.

Kanjorski has been the chief champion of credit unions ever since his sponsorship of HR 1151, the 1998 CU Membership Access Act, and was co-sponsor of last year's bill that created the corporate credit union bailout.

The new poll comes as outside groups are pouring millions into the race. The National Association of REALTORS, one of the beneficiaries of the controversial financial reform bill, poured more than $1.1 million of unsolicited campaign contributions into the campaign for Kanjorski over one 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 this time, 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 alongside Kanjorski on the Financial Services Committe. In one case, a Republican lawmaker who took CU 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 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 that are vehicles for Republican lawmakers, many of them long-time colleagues on the Financial Services Committee.

Continuing Majority Action Committee, a leadership PAC known as CAMPAC for Republican David Camp of Michigan, received a $5,000 contribution from the Michigan CU League last year and has since made a contribution to Barletta's campaign earlier this year, effectively recycling CU 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.

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