Thursday, August 6, 2009

Out-of-State Donations Flow To Many Members Of Congress

Up to 100% of bribes donations to politicians are not from their constituents

A U.S. senator represents—ostensibly—just a single state. But that doesn't always mean his or her financial support comes from it.

Consider Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee at the center of the nation's debate over health care reform. While he's reported more than 100 campaign contributions from individuals exceeding $200 so far this year—about $108,000 in all—not one such donation has come from a resident of Montana.

In this respect, Baucus is not alone. Several other members of Congress' upper chamber have heavily relied upon out-of-state donors to fill their war chests during the first six months of the year.

But all of these senators fall at an extreme end of the spectrum: Senators, on average, raised 57 percent of their individual contributions from out-of-staters during the first six months of 2009, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of Federal Election Commission records. (The FEC only requires candidates to itemize donations of $200 or more.)

Senators raising a large percentage of funds from out-of-state interests typically hail from states with small populations.

Among them: Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who is up for election next year. He raised about $1.1 million during the first six months of 2009 from individuals who contributed more than $200. Of that sum, 99 percent came from out-of-state donors.

Only Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) raised more cash from individual itemized donors than Dorgan during the first six months of the year. Each of these high-profile lawmakers is facing a contentious reelection.

For his part, Reid, the majority leader, raised about $6.6 million, with 86 percent coming from out-of-state donors. And Dodd—who was among the top recipients of out-of-state cash last quarter, and who raised eyebrows after reporting just five contributions from in-state residents during the first three months of 2009 -- raised about $1.3 million, with 91 percent coming from out-of-staters.

Two other members of both the Senate Finance Committee and Baucus' "coalition of the willing" that is crafting a draft of health reform legislation for that committee also rank among the top recipients of out-of-state individual contributions.

North Dakota's senior senator, Kent Conrad, who is also a Democrat, raised $51,600, with 96 percent coming from out-of-staters. And Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is also up for election next year, raised $72,600, with 99 percent of that coming from out-of-state donors.

On the other end of the spectrum, only Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) stands out. Alexander, who was re-elected last fall, raised $27,000 from individual donors during the first six months of 2009, with fully 100 percent of those contributions coming from residents of Tennessee.

On the House side, CRP has found that donations are more likely to flow from in-state residents. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives raised a median of 77 percent of their individual contributions from in-state donors.

But many Congressmen who have raised large sums so far this year have not seen cash from constituents alone.

Representative James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chair of the Transportation Committee, raised $262,000 during the first half of the year from individual donors -- with every penny of his individual donations of $200 or more coming in from out of state.

Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, raised $189,700, with 80 percent coming from out-of-state donors. And Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the majority leader in the House, raised about $236,200, with 72 percent coming from out-of-state donors.

Two other Democratic Congressmen who have raised all of their individual contributions from out-of-state residents include Representatives John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.). Conyers, chair of the Judiciary Committee, raised about $41,100 during the first six months of the year. And Visclosky, who has made headlines because of his close connections to lobby shop PMA Group that the FBI is investigating, raised $40,550.

Some high-profile Republicans have also been on the receiving end of out-of-state money.

Roughly two-thirds of the individual donations to Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Representative Joseph Cao (R-La.) have been out-of-staters.

Cantor, the minority whip, raised $450,900 during the first six months of 2009, while Cao, the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress after beating legally troubled Democratic Rep. William Jefferson, raised about $320,200.

Among Republican Congressmen who received 100 percent of their individual donations from out-of-staters were Representative Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Financial Services Committee, who raised $27,950, and Representative Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who raised about $49,900.

Dig into the geographical analysis yourself by examining these spreadsheets. Please note the multiple tabs for lists of the top recipients of in-state and out-of-state individual contributions, by dollar amount and by percentage. Tables also exist for the second quarter alone, as well as for the entire first six months of 2009. If you use our data, please be sure to credit CRP. Geographical Donations 09.xls

Original by Michael Beckel may be viewed here. CRP Senior Researcher Douglas Weber contributed to this report.

See this reference for definitions of “influence peddling.”

See this reference for definitions of “bribery.”

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