After being dormant for all of 2011, Congressman Chris Van Hollen's joint fundraising committee woke up in the third quarter, with most of the over $180,000 in funds coming after he was tapped for Congress’s powerful deficit-cutting committee in early August.
As a result, Van Hollen, D-Md., one of the most prominent Democrats on Capitol Hill, raised much more in the quarter than was previously reported. His campaign raised a total of about $254,000 in the period, more than tripling his bounty from the previous quarter. And he collected about 50 percent more than he did in the third quarter of 2009.
About 40 percent of that haul came from a $100,000 transfer from his joint committee to his personal campaign account at the end of the September, according to the campaign’s Federal Election Commission report.
Many of the funds raised by the joint committee, called the Van Hollen Victory Fund, appear to be connected with a previously unreported fundraiser held on Sept.18 by a Maryland supporter who recently helped launch an advocacy group promoting continuing medical education on Capitol Hill. The group, called the Continuing Medical Education Coalition, had no involvement with the fundraiser, according to its executive director Christopher Lamond.
According to Van Hollen’s spokesperson, his third quarter haul was not unusual.
“Congressman Van Hollen’s fundraising totals from this quarter match historical third quarter numbers, driven overwhelmingly by individual donations from Marylanders. As he has stated, he is only proceeding with events that were scheduled prior to his appointment to the Joint Committee,” spokesperson Bridgett Frey wrote in an email, referring to the name of the deficit-cutting panel.
Congressional leaders chose the members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction—known as the super committee—in early August, and the group of lawmakers has until Nov. 23 to reach a deal to find at least $1.2 trillion in cuts to the deficit.
It is common for members of Congress to set up joint fundraising committees. Super Committee members Patty Murray, D-Wash., Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Fred Upton, R-Mich., all have such funds.
On Sept. 18, days after the super committee held its first hearing, Dr. Jeffrey Drezner, whose company, Clinical Care Options, is a founding member of the CME Coalition, held a fundraiser at his Potomac, Md. home for Van Hollen’s joint committee. Drezner sent tens of thousands of dollars to multiple committees associated with Van Hollen from 2007 to 2010, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which Van Hollen led during those years, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Lamond, the group’s lobbyist, said he does not think other coalition members attended the event. On the FEC report, no donor other than Drezner listed a coalition member company as his or her employer.
Van Hollen’s spokesperson did not confirm whether most of the joint committee’s third quarter haul came from the Sept. 18 event. A message left with the marketing director for Clinical Care Options, where Drezner is the CEO, was not returned.
Yet the vast majority of donors in the FEC filing are Maryland residents giving one of the fundraiser's suggested contribution levels, which ranged from $250 to $5,000. And 54 percent of the quarter's donors contributed on the exact day of the event, the Van Hollen Victory Fund reported. However, a small number of donations did arrive before the congressman’s super committee appointment.
Drezner paid about $7,600 for the event’s valet parking and catering, which he donated in-kind to the joint committee, according to FEC records.
From 2007 to 2010, Drezner sent nearly $10,000 to Van Hollen’s personal account, about $15,000 to his leadership PAC, about $4,000 to a joint committee shared with former Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Md., and almost $38,000 to the DCCC, according to CRP.
Lobbying campaign kicks off
The CME Coalition began lobbying in June, when Lamond, a Thorn Run Partners lobbyist, registered to advocate for the group. The group intends to counter misconceptions about the industry, Lamond said, adding that “the advocacy is very broad at this point, in fact kind of minimal, as we look to get started.”
“The normal criticism of CME is that because industry sponsors some of the CME…that there may be some bias in the information that’s passed on to physicians that participate in CME,” Lamond said.
The group held a two day briefing on Capitol Hill in the last week of September, which was attended by about 70 House and Senate staffers, bringing leading physicians and providers together to talk about what continuing medical education is, Lamond said.
Van Hollen’s committees
The joint fundraising committee divides its earning betweens Van Hollen’s personal account and his leadership PAC, Victory Now PAC, which reported receiving about $36,000 from the joint fund in the third quarter. In all, Victory NOW PAC collected about $64,000 in the third quarter, with $14,500 coming from PACs; that included late September donations from the PACs of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees and the American Postal Workers Union.
As for the joint fundraising vehicle, the vast majority of the money raised came from individuals, with the exception of $750 in donations from political action committees.
Of the funds raised directly by the Van Hollen campaign in the quarter, about half came from individuals and the other half from PACs.