By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
In 2010, Americans voted in a large slate of Washington newcomers. Almost all of them claimed they were not stuck in Washington’s ways and would shake things up once they arrived on Capitol Hill.
Instead, a new report found that these newbies are doing pretty much the same thing their “Washington-insider” predecessors did before them — taking a lot of money from special interests and the big-business lobby.
According to a new report from the Sunlight Foundation:
It wasn’t long after they arrived in Washington in January 2011 before some of the newbies began mimicking their seniors in hitting the party trail, holding fundraisers to cover their 2010 campaign debts. Since then these corporate special interests and businesses registered to lobby have doubled down on their campaign donation to the first-year House members.
While many of the freshmen cultivated an image as political outsiders, an analysis of the paper trail they have left since their election shows that they are not all that different from other members of the Congress: More than half have previous experience in elective office and a disproportionate number of them appear to be millionaires based on their personal financial disclosure forms. And since taking office, they have been cozying up to the same special interests as the more seasoned members. All but seven freshmen are beholden to political action committees of businesses that lobby for at least 10 percent of their campaign receipts, and 55 freshmen have seen outside groups spending money on their reelection race.
Here are some other findings:
- In 2010, political action committees of businesses that lobby gave the then-challengers a total of $14.89 million. Since then, they have upped their contributions to the freshmen congressional representatives by nearly 100 percent, donating more than $26.66 million so far this cycle.
- Leadership PACs — political action committees associated with high-ranking present or former members of Congress — have propped up some of the candidates to the tune of $9.59 million.
- Outside groups — super PACs, nonprofits, labor groups and party committees — have spent $1.78 million so far on races where these 89 incumbents are running.
One of the freshman Congressmen Sunlight looked at was U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. So far, the congressman, who will face a tough re-election battle come November, has raised about $16.5 million. About $196,000 of that money has come from the big-business lobby and $144,845 from leadership PACs, according to Sunlight.