Canton Repository

 October 19, 2006

Who gets special-interest money?

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

 WASHINGTON Rep. Sherrod Brown, who has made an issue of his Senate opponent's receipt of "special-interest" money, actually ranks higher among his colleagues in receiving such donations, according to a report from a liberal advocacy group.

Public Citizen released a ranking Wednesday that shows Brown, D-Avon, ranked 67th out of 433 members of the House in receipt of special-interest campaign contributions, putting him in the top 15 percent of lawmakers benefiting from such donations.

The Republican he is trying to unseat, Sen. Mike DeWine of Cedarville, ranked 49th out of 90 senators in the report, putting him roughly halfway between lawmakers who raise the most and those who raise the least from special interests.

Although the House has 435 seats and the Senate has 100, data was not available on all lawmakers.

The ranking compared what Public Citizen views as special-interest contributions, including donations from political action committees, lobbyists, out-of-state contributors and large individual donors. The period studied ran from the 2000 election cycle until Dec. 31, 2005, for lobbyist contributions, and until June 2006 for other donations.

Public Citizen is an advocate of taxpayer financing of campaigns. It contends that special-interest contributions corrupt the system because big donors expect something in return.

MOST POWERFUL GET MOST MONEY

"By and large, the people with the most power in Congress are the ones that get the most money," Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said Wednesday.

The organization said the recent convictions of several lawmakers and lobbyists - including Rep. Bob Ney, R-Heath - on bribery or corruption charges highlight the need to reform the way campaigns are financed.

Among area lawmakers, Ney and Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, ranked high in their receipt of special-interest donations. Ney ranked 60th in the House, while Regula ranked 82nd.

Ney has admitted accepting campaign contributions, a lavish golf trip to Scotland, tickets to sporting events and other gifts from lobbyists and said he performed legislative favors for them in return.

Regula, a powerful member of the House Appropriations Committee, was near the back of the pack in raising funds from political action committees. But he did better than most lawmakers in contributions from lobbyists, big donors and out-of-state donors, the report showed.

The Ohio congressman identified as receiving the most special-interest money was House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester, who ranked fifth.

Regula and Boehner chose not to comment on the report.

In the Senate race, Brown has accused DeWine of favoring the interests of oil and gas companies, the pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations he received from them.

DEWINE VS. BROWN

DeWine spokeswoman Breann Gonzalez said the ranking showing Brown more dependent on special interests than DeWine "is just another indication that Sherrod Brown is continuing to distort and manipulate facts. He's running away from his record."

Brown spokesman Ben LaBolt countered that DeWine "sold out middle-class families in Washington and voted the interests of his special-interest campaign contributors like the drug and oil companies."

A comparison of actual amounts of cash raised shows that DeWine actually raised more special-interest money than Brown, as well as more campaign contributions overall. During the period covered in the report, DeWine raised $9.9 million in special-interest money, compared to $4.9 million for Brown.

However, compared with their peers in the House or Senate, Brown ranked higher in receipt of special interest money than DeWine did.

Senators who are campaigning statewide typically raise and spend considerably more than members of the House who are campaigning in a smaller geographical area.

Compared with other House lawmakers, Brown raised larger amounts from big individual contributors and out-of-state donors.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland, ranked 59th among senators in special-interest donations.

Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, who is running for governor, ranked 349th, or in the bottom fifth, in the House. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, ranked 374th