Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Big Bucks Inside the Beltway

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Big Bucks Inside the Beltway

Article excerpt

All across the country, Washington politicians are trying to transfer the power of federal incumbency to statewide races. Incumbency has always given overwhelming advantage to members of Congress, but this time Washington insiders are using friendly federal rules to tilt the playing field in races that are totally unconnected with the offices they hold.

They include members of Congress, retired members of Congress, staffers and political relatives - all are leveraging inside-the-Beltway backscratching and bucks for endorsements, donations and visibility in campaigns for senator and governor.

Their primary opponents aren't happy, but they also see an opportunity. "Kansas Sense vs. Washington Nonsense" is the slogan state Rep. Joan Wagnon, a Democrat, uses to set her apart from her rival for the Democratic nomination for governor, U.S. Rep. James Slattery. "Mom vs. Millionaire" trumpeted Mary Boyle, running against Joel Hyatt (son-in-law of Sen. Howard Metzenbaum) in Ohio.

The state-based candidates have reason to complain about the rules. State law prevented Wagnon from raising any money for the governor's race while the legislature was in session. Meanwhile, Slattery was holding fundraisers in Washington, advising lobbyists that they could write their checks to his gubernatorial campaign. With limited time between the close of legislative sessions and an August primary, Wagnon plays contribution catch-up against a sitting member of Congress who continues to cast votes in Washington on issues that attract special interest support, like health care.

And that's not all. In a rule that became effective last July, the Federal Election Commission prohibited transfers of funds from a candidate's state campaign to a federal campaign. A proposal that was not approved would have added requirements affecting members of Congress on transfers of federal PAC money from one election to another.

That means candidates like Jackson County Executive Marsha Murphy in Missouri have to raise money from scratch, whereas members of Congress, like her opponent in the U.S. Senate race, U.S. Rep. Alan Wheat, can use accumulated PAC sums in this new race for Senate - or, depending upon state law, a race for governor. …

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