This week, Democratic Perspective continued our “Follow the Money” series on PACs (Political Action Committees) and Super Pacs. To illustrate the problem, we chose to focus on contributions to Congressman Paul Gosar since he is currently our representative.
Under current laws, PACs can give $5,000 to a candidate each year. And in 2010, Gosar received $354,647 from PACs.
PACs may be broken into two categories: Industry and professional organizations which are limited to donations of $5,000 per candidate per year, and Leadership PACs.
Among the industry and professional PACs that gave money to Gosar are the American Dental Association which gives 28 percent to Democrats and 72 percent to Republicans and the American College of Radiology which gives slightly more to Democrats. Gosar also received money from four other dental groups.
Gosar received more than $16,000 from leadership PACs in 2010. According to OpenSecrets.org, “Leadership PACs are those of established Congressional representatives. Leadership PACs are designed for two things: “to make money and to make friends. Leadership PACs provide a way for candidates to fund travel, office expenses, consultants, polling and other non-campaign expenses. They can also be used to fund other candidates’ campaigns, usually new candidates or threatened incumbents.”
Leadership PACs that contributed to Gosar included the Every Republican Is Crucial PAC, the GOP Generation Y Fund, the Freedom Project, the Liberty Project, Invest In A Strong & Secure America , Prosperity PAC, and SarahPAC, the PAC created by Sarah Palin. (Not coincidentally, Gosar hired many of her staff to work in his office.)
Other contributors to Gosar’s 2010 campaign included California Portland Cement Company, the National Restaurant Association (likely because Gosar is anti-union).
Of all of Paul Gosar’s contributors, the largest and one of the most interesting was Services Group of America which gave more than $42,000 to Gosar’s 2010 campaign. The company’s CEO, Thomas J. Stewart, was originally from Seattle but moved to Arizona in 2005. Stewart inherited the Seattle Stevedore Company from his father and, by 1984, his company controlled shipping in every port on the West Coast from San Diego to Anchorage. He quickly became the largest political contributor from Washington – giving only to Republicans.
Stewart faced $62,000 in civil penalties for an illegal contribution of $32,850 from Services Group of America to a 1995 ballot measure to change the way Seattle City Council members are elected. And, in 1998, Stewart was fined $5 million for illegal contributions to Congressional campaigns. It was found that he funneled illegal contributions to Republican candidates through his employees, giving bonuses to employees for slipping money into campaigns.
Stewart developed strong ties to Arizona, changing his residency to Arizona in April 2005. He moved his company here a year later. He, his wife and young daughter and his long-time pilot, were killed in a Cave Creek helicopter crash in early 2010.
In 2012, the PAC created by Services Group of America has already given $18,000 to Republican candidates for federal office.