- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003


Becoming Senate majority leader has transformed Bill Frist into a money magnet.

The Tennessee Republican’s leadership political action committee raised $1.4 million during the first six months of the year — eight times more than he raised two years earlier before becoming head of the Senate GOP.

Mr. Frist’s PAC raised more money than any other leadership committee between January and June, according to Political Money Line, a Web site that compiles data from the Federal Election Commission. He took in so much cash that he initially misallocated some $400,000 in contributions and amended his report two days later.

Contributions to the heart surgeon-turned-lawmaker’s Volunteer PAC between Jan. 1 and June 30 totaled almost twice as much as the next most prolific fund-raiser, House Majority Leader Tom Delay, Texas Republican, who pulled in $752,306 for his Americans for a Republican Majority PAC.

During the first six months of the last non-election year, 2001 — before Mr. Frist became leader of the Senate GOP majority — he raised only $163,281 for his PAC.

At a Volunteer PAC fund-raising event in Nashville last April, Mr. Frist also sought contributions for five endangered Senate Republican incumbents — Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Frist’s initial campaign finance filing listed around $400,000 in donations to those lawmakers as contributions to his PAC. Two days later, the senator amended his report. Donors confirmed that their contributions were listed incorrectly.

Call it a textbook example of how money follows power in Congress, said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign-finance research group.

“People want to have access to that power,” Mr. Noble said. “He’s not even running for re-election and he’s collecting all this money.”

Linus Catigani, finance director for Volunteer PAC, said Mr. Frist didn’t raise much money for the committee two years ago because he was raising money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which he headed. Mr. Catigani said the people who give to Mr. Frist support his views.

“They are friends and supporters of Senator Frist who are like-minded in how they want government to be run,” he said. “That’s why they participate with him.”

Mr. Frist’s biggest donor over the last six months was Goldman Sachs, whose PAC and employees gave him $71,000, according to Political Money Line. Goldman Sachs executives backed President Bush’s successful effort to cut dividend taxes, which Mr. Frist pushed through the Senate.

Besides raising money for his own PAC, Mr. Frist sought contributions for endangered Republican incumbents at the April fund-raiser. Several companies answered the call. UPS’s PAC, for example, gave $5,000 to the Volunteer PAC and $4,000 to other senators.

“We participate in the political process, and the two senators who we supported have a pro-business perspective and we knew they were participating in this event,” spokesman David Bolger said.

At Mr. Frist’s request, FedEx gave to the re-election campaigns of Mr. Bond, Mr. Campbell and Mr. Specter, spokeswoman Kristin Krause said.

“We are a global company affected by complex issues,” Miss Krause said. “Obviously we play an active role in government decisions that can affect our business, and we direct our support to individuals that understand and support those issues.”

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