Follow the money

An old rule that prosecutors follow when it comes to tracking criminal activity is “follow the money.”

In most cases, money is both the cause and effect of illegal activity.

Same for politics.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay may be under indictment for campaign finance abuse and a central figure in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal but that hasn’t stopped political action committees from handing over $1,096,457 for his 2006 re-election effort along with another $1,839,803 from fatcat individual GOP contributors.

In fact, DeLay’s re-election run is currently the most expensive House campaign for this year’s mid-term election. DeLay has raised $2.97 million – nearly $1.5 million more than his opponent, Democrat Nick Lampson.

Over in the Senate, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign war check tops $35 million – far more than the $118,387 raised by Republican John Spencer.  In Pennsylvania, where the Senate race is far more competitive, Republican incumbent Rick Santorum has raised more than $14 million and Democrat Bob Casey $5 million.

In both New York and Pennsylvania, Federal Election Commissions records show more than 70 percent of the funds raised and spent in the Senate races come from individuals and organizations outside the state.

In the upcoming midterm elections, the “527” groups stand poised to pour millions upon millions into House and Senate campaigns. The giant Service Employees International Union has already spent $17 million to influence the outcome of primary elections this year. Not far behind is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees with $6.9 million.

Among non-union groups, Progress for America has dumped more than $8 million into advocacy campaigns. Their funding comes primarily from Jerry Perenchio who runs Univision, the top Hispanic broadcast channel. Perenchio has already donated $4 million for this year’s election and is expected to give more.

The “527s,” created out of a loophole in the last attempts at campaign finance reform, has quickly grown into a major force in political fundraising and may spend more than a half million dollars this year trying to influence Congressional and Senate elections.

Sometimes, through, you can find a dose of humor among the corruption of big money.

Like “Billionaires for Bush,” a 527 group formed in 2000.  According to their web site:

Billionaires for Bush is a grassroots network of corporate lobbyists, decadent heiresses, Halliburton CEOs, and other winners under George W. Bush’s economic policies. Headquartered in Wall Street and with over 60 chapters nationwide, we’ll give whatever it takes to ensure four more years of putting profit over people. After all, we know a good president when we buy one.

According to Open Secrets, the web site that tracks campaign finance:

Billionaires for Bush” (B4B) employs satire and street theater to organize opposition to the Bush administration. With early support from United for a Fair Economy in Boston, the Billionaires’ web site, radio ads, and materials use slogans like “Free the Forbes 400,” and “Corporations are People Too” to challenge the administration and its “failed policies.

They may have fun but they don’t raise or spend a lot of money. Their latest filing with the IRS shows $78,000 raised and more than twice as much spent.