Kennedy heir’s bid for Congress attracts campaign contributing veterans


Joseph P. Kennedy III easily won a primary election in Massachussett's fourth district thanks in part to some Washington insiders and a high-profile family and their vast network of well-heeled donors.  

Since he announced in February his bid for an open seat currently held by outgoing Rep. Barney Frank, the first-time candidate has already held at least four fundraisers, where his campaign requested contributions ranging from $250 to $5,000, according to records in Sunlight Foundation's Party Time.

Caroline Kennedy was among the first to aid her 31-year-old cousin raise cash. In March, she held a $2,500 to $5,000 reception in her Park Avenue home in New York. An event in July included Frank and several lawmakers at the National Democratic Club Town House in Washington D.C. 

One day before his famous relative held her fundraiser, Kennedy got help from David W. Jones, a lobbyist with Capitol Counsel, who held an event in Washington. On his website bio, Jones includes a quote from a U.S. News and World Report article describing his prowess as a fundraiser: "…(campaign) money does not come through magic. It comes through guys like David Jones." The lobbyist hosted another fundraiser at the end of July.

Kennedy also benefited from a June fundraiser in Texas, hosted by prolific Democratic donor and bundler Ben Barnes, a lobbyist who's contributed more than $300,000 in the 2012 cycle to candidates and committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

With such an array of fundraising heavyweights at his disposal, it's not surprising that Kennedy tapped the checkbooks of some big Democratic donors.

Among them were the Bellucks, who contributed late in the primary campaign. David Belluck and his wife, Jocelyn, listed as a homemaker in FEC filings, gave a total of $10,000, the maximum individual contribution allowed. According to Center for Responsive Politics, David, a partner of Boston-based investment firm Riverside Partners, along with his spouse have a history of heavily funding out-of-state congressional members and Democratic parties. In the past few years, the couple donated a total of $61,200 to the Democratic National Committee and to the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. 

Most recently, they have given to New Jersey's Sen. Robert Menendez and New York's Rep. David Cicilline; Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Al Franken of Minnesota, as well as state parties in Virginia, North Carolina and Wisconsin. They have also financed Tim Kaine's senatorial bid in the Old Dominion. 

The Schuster family, which runs the Wingate Companies, a real estate investment and management firm, also gave a total of $10,000 at the end of August. Brothers Mark and Scott Schuster each gave a last-minute $2,500 donation. Scott's wife, Heidi, also listed as a homemaker, gave $5,000. In the past few years, the Schusters have given thousands to Gillibrand, Kaine, and Max Baucus, the senior senator from Montana, as well as to the DNC, according to CRP. Their parents, philanthropists Elaine and Gerald, are the founders of Brandeis University's Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. President Barack Obama also appointed Elaine Shuster in 2009 to represent the U.S. in the United Nations General Assembly.

Kennedy's campaign also benefited from the efforts of Jones, who bundled a total of $20,200 for the congressional hopeful, according to FEC filings. Individually, he has contributed $2,308 to Kennedy, landing the candidate on his top ten list of favored lawmakers, according to his Influence Explorer profile

In this election cycle, Jones has already given more than $39,000 to candidates. His top recipient is former Rep. Dan Maffei of New York, who is re-challenging incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle. Buerkle narrowly defeated her opponent in the 2010 during the anti-incumbent wave across the country mainly driven by the Tea Party movement.

On Capitol Counsel's website, Jones boasts a long resume filled with Democratic lawmakers' campaigns. They have included U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's senatorial and presidential campaigns and former House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt's presidential campaign, for which he served as national finance director. Jones also served as former Rep. Patrick Kennedy's political consultant, and was a member of Hillary Clinton's finance committee when she ran for president in 2008.

His firm's client roster lists General Electric, Cardinal Health, Workers Compensation Fund and Rent-A-Center. According to Influence Explorer, Capitol Counsel has a lengthy history of giving to long-serving members of Congress such as Menendez, Baucus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch, Utah's senior senator. Although the company has contributed to mostly Republican candidates in this election cycle, it has a record of wooing Democratic candidates. 

Kennedy, who's raised a hefty $3 million so far, defeated two lesser-known candidates whose fundraising efforts were dwarfed by the wealth of contributions he received within less than a year. Herb Robinson, a software engineer, raised $27,928, half of which came from the candidate himself. Rachel Brown, who describes herself on her campaign website as a LaRouche Democrat, garnered less than $13,000.

In November, Kennedy will face the Republican winner, Sean Bileat, a Marine and businessman. He has raised $476,488 since mid-August, with a total of $10,000 coming from Citizens United Political Victory Fund. Although Cook Political Report says the state's newly redrawn fourth district will remain a Democratic stronghold, the southern parts have voted for Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Charlie Baker, who ran against Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010.

The son of the former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and the grandson of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy is the first member of the family to enter his name on a congressional ballot since the retirement of Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island and the passing of his great-uncle Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2009. The "Lion of the Senate" was honored at Tuesday's Democratic Convention in a video highlighting his contributions to the party; the newest Kennedy to run for office introduced the montage.

Prior to becoming a congressional candidate, the Brookline resident served as a prosecutor in several counties in Massachusetts. He was also a former volunteer in the Peace Corps., an organization started by another great uncle, the late President John F. Kennedy.

(Photo credit: Joe Kennedy for Congress)