March Madness: Lawmakers retire with millions in the bank

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Portrait of Dave Camp, R-Mich.
Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp is retiring, his campaign has $3.4 million in cash on hand; Photo credit: Wikipedia

What’s going on in the Great Lakes State? Just weeks after veteran Democratic lawmaker John Dingell announced he would be packing it in (and days after the Spartans and Wolverines were bounced from the NCAA tournament) two more Michigan congressmen have declared their plans for retirement. Republican Mike Rogers will be taking his talents to the airwaves, where the Washington Post reports he has inked a deal for a nationally syndicated radio show with Cumulus Media. It’s not yet clear where Dave Camp — whose public announcement came Monday — will find himself at the end of this term, but the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means committee has plenty of funds left in his campaign war chests.

Sunlight has been keeping tabs on the leftover dough in retiring lawmakers’ leadership committees, the vehicles members of Congress use to raise and contribute money to other candidates in their party. While federal law bars lawmakers from making personal use of money raised for their campaign committees, nothing prevents them from using funds raised by their leadership PACs to pay for international travel, hire a personal trainer, or commission a $60,000 self portrait — all of which are actual examples from Peter Schweizer and 60 Minute’s joint reporting on the leadership committee loophole.

Camp’s Continuing A Majority Party Action Committee (CAMPAC) had just over $168,000 on hand at the beginning of March — and disclosures show the retiring congressman was fundraising as recently as late February. The committee pulled in $20,000 on Feb. 24, scoring $5,000 contributions from the political action committees of American Express, Boston Scientific, Burns and McDonnell Inc. the Employee Owned “S” Corporations of America, a trade association for businesses that use employee stock ownership plans as retirement vehicles.

The Ways and Means chair’s campaign committee has been raking in money at an even more impressive rate. In the fourth quarter of 2013, Camp for Congress raised nearly half a million dollars from a host of PACs to close the year with over $3.4 million on hand. In fact, Camp’s campaign team ended the year with more money on hand than any other candidate committee, save one. Marty Meehan, a former congressman who now helms the University of Massachusetts Lowell, has been out of Congress for nearly eight years, but his campaign coffers remain fully stocked. Candidate committees often outlive their namesake’s political career, and the Meehan for Congress committee has been doling out tens of thousands of dollars in political donations in 2013. It ended the year with almost $4.6 million dollars in the bank.

Rogers, the rep-turned-radio-host, scaled back his leadership PAC fundraising in early 2014. The Majority Initiative to Keep Electing Republicans Fund (Mike R Fund) only raised $5,000 (from Northrop Grumman’s PAC) by the start of March. His campaign committee had $1.85 million in cash at of the most recent filing.

The cash in the outgoing Michiganders’ leadership PACs pushes the new total of in-flux dollars to $983,942.