16 July, 2006

PAC People: Incumbents Swallowing Funds From Political Action Committees

It's no shock that incumbent politicians who are seen as favorites to keep their seats raise plenty of their campaign funds from Political Action Committees - special interest groups.

But looking at the local races, the advantage the incumbents have in raising money is astounding. At least in this go-round.

All of the following figures are based on mid-year filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

In the race for the 19th Congressional District the top three fund raisers among the Democrats took little money from PACs. Based on the total of funds raised in the political cycle to date, and the total raised from PACs, John Hall got 1.7% of his funds from special interest groups; Judy Aydelott got one-half-of-one-percent (o.5%) of her funds from PACs and Ben Shuldiner got 2.9% of his contributions from PACs.

Sue Kelly, the Republican incumbent on the 19th District race, has taken in $770,000 from PACs so far this cycle - or 54% of total contributions.

The story is similar in the 20th District, but perhaps not quite as pronounced. Democratic challenger Kirstin Gillibrand has taken almost $154,000 from special interest groups - or 14.5% of total donations. Republican incumbent John Sweeney has tripled Gillibrand, taking in 46% of his total contributions from PACs, or a total of $758,000.

In the 18th District, the trend doesn't seem to hold. Incumbent Democrat Nita Lowey has taken $192,000 from PACs, or 19% of her total contributions of $991,000. Lowey's Republican challenger Richard Hoffman has taken 23% of his money from special interest groups - although that number is skewed by the small totals involved. Hoffman has raised $23,000 so far, $5,500 of that from PACs. Lowey's overall total for the April-June quarter was $229,000.

The trend of the incumbent picking up PAC funds remains intact though in the 17th District, where Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel has taken $320,000 from special interest groups, exactly 50% of his $640,000 raised to date. Engel by the way raised $136,558 in the April-June quarter.

Engel's Democratic primary challenger, Jessica Flagg has raised only $2,681 so far - none from PACs. We could not find a filing yet from his Republican challenger Jim Faulkner


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