Where CUNA Is Putting Its PAC Money This Year

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CUNA is continuing to build up its campaign warchest, just as the final months of the 2004 congressional elections approach. The trade group's political action committee raised $170,000 and spent $146,000 in May, leaving it with $586,000, the most ever, in cash heading into the campaign's stretch run. This will give CUNA plenty of ammunition to prop up favored candidates in the final days of the campaign.

The biggest contributions in May went to: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), $6,000; House Financial Services Chairman Michael Oxley (R-OH), $5,000; California Attorney General and Democratic House candidate Dan Lungren $5,000; and Rep. Brad Carson (D-OK), a candidate for the Senate $5,000. Also, contributions of $2,500 went to Reps. Dan Burton (R-IN), Baron Hill (D-IN), Chris Chocola (R-IN), Nancy Johnson (R-CT), Julia Carson (D-IN), Mike Pence (R-IN), and Dave Camp (R-MI), as well as Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH).

CUNA also continued a recent practice, expanded over the past few elections, of helping to cultivate important congressional leaders by contributing to their so-called leadership PACs. Contributions to leadership PACs actually allow special interests to double the $10,000 maximum allowable contribution to an individual's own campaign fund, even though they aren't supposed to be used for that individual's campaign. And lawmakers are much more likely to remember contributions of $20,000, much more than they would of $10,000.

With high-minded names like "America's Majority Trust," "American Liberty PAC," and "Freedom PAC," leadership PACs have proliferated over the past few elections and now number well over 100.

Campaign organizations like these will allow interests like CUNA to expand their financial contributions to influential leaders like House Financial Services Chairman Michael Oxley (Leadership PAC), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Keep Our Majority PAC), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Volunteer PAC), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (PAC to the Future).

Last month CUNA made separate $5,000 contributions to Committee for the Preservation of Capitalism (Rep. Jim McCrery, R-LA); Over the Hill PAC (Sen. George Allen, R-VA); Glacier PAC (Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT); and National Leadership PAC (Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY).

Through the first 17 months of the current two-year election cycle CUNA has contributed $106,500 to the various leadership PACs, more than double what it contributed to leadership PACs in the last elections and more than it has contributed to either the Democratic Party ($90,0000) or Republican Party ($90,000).

CUNA is also continuing its practice of identifying neophyte congressional candidates as future allies once they get to Washington. Even with a paucity of open congressional races the credit union lobby has targeted a handful of candidates to cultivate in this year's elections.

CUNA has put its money behind House candidates like Republican Kenny Marchand ($10,000), who co-sponsored the credit union reform bill in the Texas legislature, and Charles Dent ($5,000), a pro-credit union Republican state senator, among the 13 open races in which the credit union lobby group is participating. CUNA has also made contributions to open seat candidates Dan Lungren ($5,000), the Democratic attorney general in California, and Democratic political heiress Stephanie Herseth ($5,000), who is running to succeed the man who beat her in 2002, Rep. Bill Janklow, currently jailed for vehicular manslaughter. An unusually small number of races, just 31 in the House and eight in the Senate have no incumbent running. And with incumbents winning 99% of congressional races, that means the two parties are going to be dedicating an inordinate amount of money to just a few races, according to Richard Gose, political director for CUNA. He predicts as few as a dozen of the 435 House races this year will be close. And a swing of that many races to either party could determine which party controls the House in the next Congress.

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