Saturday, April 29, 2006

PAC Man Fever

I gotta pocket full of quarters, and I'm headed to the arcade.
I don't have a lot of money but I'm bringing everything I've made.
I've gotta callus on my finger, and my shoulder's hurtin' too.
I'm gonna eat 'em all up, just as soon as they turn blue.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has raised more than $1.3 million since 1999 through his leadership committee, the Prairie PAC, steering much of it to his fellow Senate Democrats as well as to local Illinois candidates and party committees. ***

Freshman Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., set up a leadership PAC days after he was sworn in last January. With almost $3 million in receipts so far, the rising Democratic star's PAC, Hopefund, has already raised more than that of any other local lawmaker this election cycle. ***

Durbin, for example, has contributed more than $200,000, or about 61 percent of his total expenditures, to other candidates so far this cycle. His PAC has two part-time fundraising consultants, no paid staff and relatively little overhead. Michael Daly, Durbin's Illinois chief of staff, serves as the committee's treasurer, receiving expense reimbursements, not a salary.

"We're pretty tight with the dollar," Durbin said. "What I'm trying to do is help other people get started in politics." ***

Obama's PAC, by contrast, has spent about $2 million so far this election cycle, with about 18 percent, or $365,000, going to other candidates.

Obama's Hopefund has five paid staffers: a communications director, a political director, two fundraisers and an administrator. The PAC has also spent more than $80,000 in consulting fees, more than $90,000 on travel and $28,000 in rent, among other expenses.

As a percentage of expenditures, the Hopefund's candidate contributions were the lowest of any local lawmaker's PAC. ***

Several PAC officials noted that their contribution totals would grow as the election draws closer.

Robert Gibbs, a spokesman in Obama's Senate office and for the Hopefund PAC, defended the PAC's expenditures, noting that it had contributed the maximum to every competitive Senate Democrat without a primary and still had nearly $900,000 to give before November.

In addition to giving directly to candidates, Gibbs added, Obama has used his PAC to travel around the country for fundraising events. Obama is a major draw for Democratic hopefuls, who have barraged his office with requests for him to appear at their events.

Indeed, Obama's presence at a fundraiser can be much more valuable - attracting hundreds of thousands of dollars - than a donation from his PAC, which is limited to $5,000 per election (primary and general). ***

Gibbs also said that because Obama's PAC was new, it had many big-ticket startup costs that had eaten up significant resources. For example, Gibbs noted that the PAC invested heavily in establishing a direct mail list, at a cost of more than $350,000. That expense could reap big and ongoing dividends in future years, both for the Hopefund and for Obama himself, if the PAC cultivates a long list of loyal donors.
Now I've got 'em on the run, and I'm looking for the high score.
So it's once around the block, and I'll slide back out the side door.
I'm really cookin' now, eating everything in sight.
All my money's gone, so I'll be back tommorow night.

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