Springfield State Journal-Register

January 26, 2005

Sen. Obama creates fund-raising PAC, plans to help mayoral candidates in spring

BY Dori Meinert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON  Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Tuesday filed papers with the Federal Elections Commission to create a political action committee to raise money for local, state and federal Democratic candidates in Illinois and nationwide.

Obama named the political action committee HOPE FUND, after the phrase "audacity of hope" in his keynote speech to the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston last July. The PAC expects to make its first donations this spring to Illinois mayoral candidates, said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.

"What we're simply doing is trying to assist other Democratic candidates," Gibbs said. "It's simply an extension of the help that we tried to provide last cycle."

No fund-raisers currently are scheduled, he said, and he wouldn't discuss specific fund-raising goals.

"Our track record in the last (election) cycle provides a pretty good benchmark of what we'd like to do," Gibbs said.

Obama proved his fund-raising abilities during his campaign last year. In addition to raising $14.9 million for his own Senate campaign, Obama raised $2.85 million more for other Democratic candidates last year, including $1 million for Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), according to figures released by his staff.

Earlier this month, Obama was named the Midwest regional vice chair for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a role in which he is expected to channel funds for Democratic Senate candidates in 2006.

For a lawmaker, the creation of a PAC is a sign of aspiration for a leadership position in Congress or higher office, according Steve Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. Obama has been widely discussed as a future presidential candidate.

"It's another fund-raising vehicle for them," Weiss said. "And lawmakers tend to use that money to give to other candidates and to the party in an effort to increase their standing within the party. Members wanting to increase their chances of getting a key committee assignment or rising within the leadership often form leadership PACs to maximize their fund-raising."

Once a donor has contributed the legal limit to a lawmakers' campaign fund, they can contribute again to the PAC, he noted.

"Donors eagerly take advantage of the opportunity to give twice to the same lawmaker," Weiss said.

Obama also may use PAC money to pay for his travel, polling or other activities that the law prohibits his Senate office account and campaign committee from bankrolling, Weiss said.

Illinois lawmakers with federal PACs include House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris, and Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria.

Hastert's Keep Our Majority PAC gave $831,500 to Republican candidates in the 2004 election cycle. Durbin's Prairie PAC contributed $212,500 to Democratic candidates. Weller's Re-Elect Freshmen of the Republican Majority PAC handed out $72,500 to Republicans, while LaHood's Abraham Lincoln Leadership PAC distributed $6,000 to GOP candidates.