Santorum Takes Most Money From Lobbyists

May 24, 2006

In a report released today by Public Citizen, Senator Rick Santorum opped the list of those who have benefitted most from lobby gifts, raking in a whopping $560,738.

Public Citizen's Press Release:

Lobbyists Contributed $103 Million to Lawmakers Since 1998

Public Citizen Report Reveals Names and Numbers Behind Biggest Lobbyist Contributors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lobbyists and their political action committees (PACs) have contributed at least $103.1 million to members of Congress since 1998, according to a new report released today by Public Citizen. This is the first comprehensive effort to match names of lobbyists with Federal Election Commission campaign contribution data. The result provides details about the biggest lobbyist contributors and congressional recipients of campaign largesse and furnishes a contribution total nearly double the previous estimate.

The report, released today in a telephone press conference, details the amounts given to members of Congress since 1998 by the 50 biggest lobbyist money-givers. Twenty-seven percent of lobbyists have contributed an amount to lawmakers large enough to be recognized by the Federal Election Commission ($200 or more), and a select 6.1 percent of lobbyists have contributed at least $10,000 – totaling 83.4 percent of all lobbyist contributions. Many of the top recipients of congressional campaign money are on appropriations committees that dole out federal money.

The report also records the rise of contributions by lobbyists from $17.8 million in the 2000 election cycle to $33.9 million in the 2004 cycle – a 90.3 percent increase. In the 2006 election, lobbyists and their PACs are already on track to give about 10 percent more than in the previous cycle, not accounting for the expected increase in contributions as Election Day draws nearer.

“These numbers reveal the seamier side of Washington’s congressional decision-making,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “Such enormous sums buy commensurate access, shutting most Americans out of the process and skewing legislation and budget allocation.”

Profiling the 10 lobbyists who have given the most to members of Congress since 1998, the report provides behind-the-scenes glimpses of some of the most egregious policy-making fiascos in recent years. One prime example is Kenneth Kies, who served as the chief of staff of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation from 1995 to 1998 and who, along with his wife Kathleen, is the study’s fifth-highest lobbyist-contributor to Congress with $292,866 since 1998.

Kies played an indispensable role in preserving the “synfuel” tax credit, which has allowed exploitative companies to bilk the Treasury out of $1 billion to $4 billion per year merely by spraying coal with diesel fuel or other substances and claiming a tax credit for creating a “synthetic” fuel. The top recipient of their largesse, House Ways and Means Select Measures Subcommittee Chairman Jim McCrery (R-La.), has helped protect the synfuel tax credit from a crackdown by both the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service.

Lobbyist Denny Miller, whose $293,203 in contributions to members of Congress since 1998 rank him fourth in Public Citizen’s study, was one of two lobbyists to negotiate the proposed $30 billion Boeing tanker deal in 2001. Miller was a former chief of staff to Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.), the former senator for Boeing’s hometown and corporate headquarters.

When on the verge of passage, the deal imploded amid revelations that leasing the planes would be more expensive than purchasing them outright, that the military didn’t truly need the planes and that the negotiations repeatedly violated regulations. This near-miss is considered one of the worst procurement abuses in recent decades and has resulted in prison sentences for a Boeing executive and a Pentagon official.

“The campaign contributions lobbyists make from their own checkbooks, while significant, are just a fraction of the equation,” said Claybrook. “This report also reveals that top lobbyist contributors coordinate lucrative fund-raisers for the lawmakers they hope to influence and bring in a steady stream of contributions from their corporate clients far greater than they alone give.”

The lobbyist couple Denny and Sandra Miller once hosted a pair of fund-raisers for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) that netted the lawmaker $160,000 in just four hours. The total the Millers could have contributed as individuals under the campaign finance law at the time was $4,000. Denny Miller was also among 15 lobbyists who coordinated a fund-raiser for a Stevens foundation in 2004 that raised $2 million.

And while disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff ranks 30th among the lobbyists considered in the report with $180,503 in contributions to members of Congress since 1998, his clients contributed a total of $2.6 million to members of Congress in the same time period.

To limit this type of waste and malfeasance, Congress should prevent lobbyists from making contributions of greater than $200 per election to lawmakers’ campaign committees or from contributing more than $500 per election cycle to national parties or leadership PACs, the report says. Lobbyists should also be prevented from arranging contributions to federal candidates, serving as officials on candidate campaign committees and leadership PACs, funding events “honoring” members of Congress and contributing to foundations controlled by lawmakers. None of these limitations are in the pending ethics and lobby reform bills before Congress, revealing how inadequate they are.

The report recommends publicly financing campaigns as the only real remedy to abuses and scandals. Public funding would pay for itself by saving billions wasted in lobbyist-brokered corporate giveaways.

“Our system of selling federal tax breaks, contracts, subsidies, loan guarantees and regulatory cutbacks to the highest bidder is not only subverting the democratic process, it’s costing the country billions and driving up the national debt,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and the principal author of the report. “Even spending as much as $2 billion a year to publicly finance campaigns would be cheaper than the synfuel boondoggle alone – and that’s just one of the tax credits that has emerged from the toxic combination of influence-peddlers and campaign contributions.”


It’s Official: Santorum Sucks!

April 23, 2006

From Santorum Exposed:

Rick Santorum has received yet another distinction. A Survey USA poll released yesterday puts Rick's job approval rating at 39% and his disapproval rating at 53%.

This poll makes it official, Rick Santorum is now the least popular member of the U.S. Senate. Congratulations, Rick.


Religious Group Illegally Funds Santorum

March 25, 2006

From The Philadelphia Daily News:

A faith-based Philadelphia group at the center of a flap over whether tax-exempt religious groups are aiding the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen Rick Santorum has won more than $250,000 in federal grant money pushed for by Santorum over the last three years.

The group, the Urban Family Council — founded by well-known local conservative religious activist William Devlin — also has reaped a $10,000 grant from a controversial charity founded by Santorum, the Operation Good Neighbor Foundation.

The news of the financial support linked to Santorum comes just one day after a Washington-based watchdog group — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW — sent a letter of complaint to the IRS about the Urban Family Council and three other groups with tax-exempt status.

The controversy centers on a training session held earlier this month in Valley Forge by an ad hoc group calling itself the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, which pushed a church-based get-out-the-vote drive for November. Santorum addressed the group by videotape; he was the only candidate featured.

Several watchdog groups on charities or church-and-state issues say the web between the Urban Family Council and Santorum is a tangled one. The overlapping ties raise questions, they said, about a backdoor way to funnel money to political supporters outside of the closely monitored campaign-finance system.

Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, charged that the connections between the senator and the Urban Family Council “creates a gigantic conflict of interest — an inappropriate meshing of the interests of the Urban [Family Council] and the interests of Senator Santorum.?

But Betty Jean Wolfe, the president of the Urban Family Council, said last night that the criticisms of her group are “a reach? — that the Valley Forge session and Santorum’s involvement were merely the result of like-minded views on issues such as stopping gay marriage and abortion.

Wolfe also stressed that the federal grant money earmarked by Santorum and his GOP Senate colleague Arlen Specter for abstinence-based sex education, and the donation from Santorum’s charity, are just a small part of the money that the Urban Family Council gets from foundations and other donors on all sides of the political spectrum.

Santorum’s spokeswoman, Virginia Davis, did not return an e-mail and a cell-phone message seeking a comment. Earlier this week, Santorum aide Robert Traynham told the New York Times that the senator’s involvement was “a generic video greeting,? although it focused on same-sex marriage.

The Urban Family Council is best known locally for its aggressive efforts to try to block city benefits for the gay partners of Philadelphia municipal employees. In an online chat on Washingtonpost.com last year, Santorum cited the Philly group as one he’d worked with on “a variety of programs such as fatherhood programs trying to strengthen the bond between children and fathers.?

In 2003, Santorum and Specter successfully fought to earmark $3.1 million in federal funds for abstinence programs in Pennsylvania, including $126,000 for the Urban Family Council. Wolfe confirmed that the group later received a second grant of approximately the same amount.

Devlin, who didn’t return cell phone calls, was one of several speakers at the Valley Forge conference held on March 6. All of the ministers attending were given a copy of Santorum’s recent book, “It Takes a Family.?

Recently, IRS commissioner Mark W. Everson announced his agency would take an aggressive stance toward tax-exempt groups taking actions that appears to be in support of one candidate.

Rick Cohen, the executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, was troubled by the use of charitable funds for a group that appears to offer political support. Unlike political contributions, money given initially to a charity like Santorum’s can come from corporations, has no limits, and is tax deductable.