Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Portman creates fund for GOP

PAC to help congressional candidates

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has formed a new political action committee to raise money to help Republicans keep control of the House.

        The Terrace Park Republican hopes to collect $250,000 to $500,000 for candidates this year through the committee, America's Majority Trust.

        Republicans hold a narrow majority in the House and Democrats control the Senate by a single lawmaker. Both parties view November's mid-term congressional elections as an opportunity to make gains.

        “I have a responsibility to help vulnerable members and challengers to make sure we can retain and expand our majority,” Mr. Portman said Monday.

        Mr. Portman, chairman of the House Republican leadership and a liaison to the White House, has donated more than $400,000 of his own campaign money to Re publican candidates in the past few election cycles. He also has helped raise millions more for the party through major fund-raising events, such as the House-Senate Dinner and the President's Dinner.

        The congressman does not accept political action committee money for his own campaigns but solicits PAC money for other candidates. The new committee will accept money from individual donors and corporate and interest-group political-action committees.

        Mr. Portman said he thinks PAC money can have an influence on lawmakers, which is why he prefers to raise most of his campaign money from individual donors in Ohio. But he has made the choice, given the realities of political fund raising, to raise PAC money for other candidates.

        Many high-profile lawmakers establish PACs to help fellow candidates and expand their own connections with interest groups and wealthy donors.

        For example, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has future leadership aspirations, has raised money for Republican candidates through the Freedom Project, his political-action committee. The committee gave about $552,000 to candidates during the 2000 election cycle and raised $556,000 last year.

        Mr. Portman also has been raising money for his own re-election and a possible statewide campaign in the future. He would need several million dollars to prepare for a Senate race, for instance, because he is not widely known outside Greater Cincinnati.

        A fund-raiser Friday for Mr. Portman in Cincinnati with Vice President Dick Cheney collected more than $400,000 for his re-election campaign, pushing his total to more than $1.3 million.

        Rachel Pearson, who has raised money for Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, will manage Mr. Portman's new committee. The committee will have fund-raising events here and, possibly, in Ohio.

        The Cook Political Report, which studies congressional politics, predicted that only about 50 House and about nine Senate races would be competitive this year. The political party that controls the White House, in this case Republicans, typically loses seats in Congress during mid-term elections but the Cook analysts think President Bush's popularity may help the GOP keep power in the House.

        Mr. Portman said he feels a responsibility as a House leader to help with fund raising but would like to concentrate on policy issues.

        “It's not so much that I hate doing it, but it's not how I would choose to spend my time,” he said. “It's a necessary part of maintaining and building our majority.

        “If you don't have the resources to get your message out, you can't be successful.”


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