WASHINGTON -- If you're in the securities industry and gave money to House Ways and Means Committee members during the 1980s, you might surprised to find out where it went.
Frank Guarini bought flowers. Tom Downey spent $15,000 on computer equipment. And Willis Gradison gave more than $200,000 to other people's campaigns.
All part of getting elected? Not so. The expenditures were made in the past two years with money left over when Guarini, Downey, and Jenkins left Congress.
Those three and seven other Ways and Means members who gave up their House seats on Jan. 1, 1993, took with them more than $2 million in unused campaign funds, some of it supplied by the securities industry.
Nine of the 10 tax lawmakers received money in the late 1980s from law firms, underwriters, or trade associations with ties to the bond market. The contributors include the Public Securities Association; the Securities Industry Association; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; Merrill Lynch & Co.; Hunton & Williams; and Kutak Rock.
The former legislators could have put the money into their own pockets under a grandfather clause in federal election rules as long as they paid income tax on the funds, but all have declined to do so thus far. To be a so-called grandfather, a House member had to be elected before 1980 and leave Congress at the end of 1992.
Even so, the former members are still making use of their leftover campaign funds, as the law permits them to do. A few have made charitable donations, and one refunded a chunk of his war chest to contributors. But several former members have become Washington lobbyists, and they are doling out their funds as campaign contributions to their old colleagues who are still in the House.
The rules on unused campaign funds give former legislators a large amount of leeway. A spokesman for the Federal Election Commission said there is no deadline for terminating an old campaign fund, nor are there restrictions on how the money may be spent, though large receipts or disbursements trigger reporting and disclosure requirements. In addition, grandfathers have an unlimited amount of time to decide to convert their funds to personal use.
Several other House members not on Ways and Means have already converted their campaign funds.