Philadelphia Inquirer | 02/13/2006 | For Santorum and Casey, fund-raising is constant: "Posted on Mon, Feb. 13, 2006
For Santorum and Casey, fund-raising is constant Each must juggle his duties with the scramble for money in what analysts consider the year's premier Senate race.By Carrie BudoffInquirer Staff WriterIn December, State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. went into the office just seven days.
With a crucial fund-raising deadline looming, the Democratic Senate candidate swept through Los Angeles, Atlanta and St. Louis and spent as many days in Philadelphia - raising money and working on his campaign - as he did in the treasurer's office in Harrisburg.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum stayed closer to home, attending 11 fund-raisers in 15 days across Pennsylvania and in New York and Washington. After missing four votes, and the possibility of a fifth on the Patriot Act, Santorum cut short a trip to Texas and Arizona.
That December snapshot highlights the intense pace of fund-raising in what political analysts consider this year's premier U.S. Senate race. With the candidates preparing to battle not only each other but special-interest groups, the need to bank millions of dollars won't relent until Election Day.
Santorum is the Senate Republicans' No. 3 leader, but he is the Democrats' No. 1 target - for his conservative politics as much as for his Senate leadership position and his potential presidential aspirations. Democrats, hungry for a high-profile win, have funneled $6 million to Casey. Republicans have countered with $10 million for Santorum in the last year.
The money pressures have led Casey to spend the majority of his time on 91.5 of 211 workdays on his campaign from March through December, according to an abridged schedule provided by the treasurer's office. Casey, who entered the Senate race six weeks after being sworn in as treasurer, spent more than half of June, September and December out of the office. The common thread: Each month preceded a quarterly fund-raising deadline, a pivotal benchmark that shapes perceptions about a candidate's ability to win.
Santorum did make 96 percent of his Senate votes between March and December - the key indicator for determining a senator's whereabouts. But that tells only part of the story.
Santorum spent a portion of 97 of 211 work days at fund-raisers, weaving 154 events throughout his Senate schedule, routinely juggling floor votes with donor luncheons at Washington restaurants, according to a list provided by his campaign. The mixing of public business and fund-raising has come under scrutiny since lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea in a bribery investigation that magnified the clubby relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists.
Although much attention is paid to the amount that candidates raise, less is known about the methods and time that fund-raising demands. The schedules, which are not public records, were provided at The Inquirer's request, offering a more complex view of fund-raising in a cash-infused race.
Santorum and Casey say their official duties remain their priority; fund-raising is secondary.
Still, Barry Kauffman, executive director of Pennsylvania Common Cause, a government watchdog group, called the campaign interference "a huge, huge problem."
"When public officials are distracted from their jobs because they have to raise enormous amounts of money, and they spend four or five hours a day dialing for dollars with wealthy people, they don't have time to talk to the regular people," Kauffman said.
"It all comes down to, Who is going to own the election?"
By all accounts, Casey had never thought much about the Senate. The governorship was his ambition.
That all changed when he won the treasurer's office in 2004 with more votes than any other candidate in any race in state history, and in areas where Democrats usually fared poorly. The national party came calling.
When Casey entered the Senate race on March 4, political observers asked: Would the party's big liberal funders invest heavily in this antiabortion, anti-gun-control Democrat?
Eleven months later, Casey has overcome much of the skepticism by crisscrossing the state and the nation, making contacts and collecting checks - mostly behind closed doors.
Casey left the East Coast for the first time to raise money in June. But his first stop wasn't a liberal money capital like Los Angeles or San Francisco.
It was Dallas.
After flying on a private jet owned by the law firm of Baron & Budd, Casey dined with donors at the Crescent Club, a private club at a five-star hotel. He also was host at a cocktail reception for younger professionals in the Uptown district.
"He hasn't been a national politician," said Frederick M. Baron, a prominent Dallas lawyer who served as chairman of Democrat John Kerry's joint fund-raising committee for his presidential campaign in 2004. "It was really important for him to go around and start introducing himself and start networking."
Baron said he met Casey through Austin, Texas, native Paul Begala, an adviser to former President Bill Clinton who helped propel Casey's father into the Pennsylvania governor's office in the late '80s.
As a past president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Baron said, he has since asked his national network of lawyers to raise money for Casey, which they have done in San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles. For them, Santorum's defeat ranks at the top of the political to-do list.
Unlike Casey, Santorum favors limiting jury awards in malpractice cases and establishing a federal asbestos trust fund. In a 2002 interview with the Financial Times of London, Baron vowed a "jihad" against lawmakers who worked to restrict tort cases.
Casey flew out of Dallas with more than $71,000, including $28,000 from Baron & Budd employees.
He returned to Texas in September as part of a money-raising sprint that kept him from the office on 16 of 21 workdays.
For the month, he cleared $1.5 million, or roughly $50,000 a day, exceeding analysts' expectations. The month's highlights: Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) helped raise $500,000 at a Philadelphia luncheon, and a former ambassador to Portugal, Elizabeth F. Bagley, feted the state treasurer in her Georgetown home in Washington.
The demands of a statewide campaign - this is Casey's third in four years - have not gone unnoticed in Harrisburg.
Within days of Casey's entering the race, Republicans sensed a political soft spot. They began portraying him as a political opportunist, flitting from office to office and using his family name to advance.
At a budget hearing in March, Casey told state lawmakers he could handle the dual responsibility. "I am confident in the system we have in place and the team we have in place."
The treasurer, who earns $134,140 a year, serves as custodian of $100 billion in state-agency and public-pension funds. The office cuts checks, audits spending, administers the state's college savings plan, and oversees $12 billion in investments.
While he might be out of the office, Casey remains in "constant contact," Treasury spokeswoman Karen Walsh said.
She said he has gone beyond his job description by creating new loan programs - $20 million for energy loans to homeowners, and $50 million for hospital improvements. He performed a "top-to-bottom review" of state Treasury contracts for cost savings, expanded fraud investigations, and hired Moody's to rate the college savings plan for the first time to encourage more investment, Walsh said.
"I can't stress enough that he is running this department," Walsh said.
The pressure to raise mounds of cash stems, in large part, from Santorum.
The two-term senator estimated a year ago that he would collect $25 million, or an average of $1 million a month, putting him on track to break the Senate record in Pennsylvania of $21 million, set by Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in 2004.
Observers didn't question the goal. Santorum, who earns $162,000 a year, has established himself as a prolific fund-raiser.
His schedule reflects that reality. He has traveled to more than a dozen states, once holding five events between Georgia and Texas in one day.
A Georgia fund-raiser netted $12,750 from 15 doctors with Resurgens, an orthopedic practice. Workers and executives of Alcon Laboratories, a Texas eye-products company, poured $17,600 into his campaign.
A July weekend trip to Colorado coincided with more than $25,000 in contributions from prominent conservatives, such as billionaire financier Philip Anschutz and retired cable executive John V. Saeman Jr., who said he supports Santorum's "pro-family, pro-life values." Like Casey on his Texas trip, Santorum got there by corporate jet - this one from BellSouth.
"We all recognize that Rick is a marked man," said Saeman, who, along with his wife, gave the maximum donation of $4,200. "The Republicans were able to unseat Tom Daschle, and this is the Democrats' hot-button designated seat for payback."
Consider Santorum's long Veterans' Day weekend.
On Nov. 10, a Thursday, he attended two fund-raisers and cast two votes in Washington. Later that day, he traveled to Ohio for a third fund-raiser, missing three votes. Over the next three days, he jumped from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, delivering speeches and federal funds for local programs. He was back in Philadelphia that Monday, leading a town-hall meeting and hitting two more fund-raisers before a 5:25 p.m. vote in Washington.
"There is a real incumbent advantage, because the line between campaigning and Senate duties is very thin," said Larry Noble, president of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.
Nowhere is this more apparent than Washington.
Santorum has held more than a third of his fund-raisers there, more than in any other city and, on several occasions, has held as many as three in a day.
Moving among votes, hearings and constituent meetings, Santorum drops by a donor breakfast or luncheon, typically for half an hour. The events are built around his official duties, said Virginia Davis, his campaign spokeswoman.
"Sen. Santorum is committed to carrying out the responsibilities associated with his official role as a U.S. senator," Davis said. "His remaining time is balanced with the priorities of his family and the challenge of running statewide."
Those commitments "often limit his ability to travel outside of D.C. for fund-raising," she added.
Newt Gingrich, the Republican former House speaker, has called it unnecessary. "Too many politicians are scheduling the people's business around their fund-raising opportunities," Gingrich, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, said in a commentary last month on National Public Radio. "There is no good reason to raise money in Washington, D.C., and this practice should be banned. Period."
Unlikely to happen, political observers say. For Santorum and Casey, the amount of money from Washington area donors is second only to that from Pennsylvanians.
"The members can't afford it," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "The people who are most interested in their campaigns are people with interests in Washington."
Contact staff writer Carrie Budoff at 610-313-8211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How this article was reported
Work schedules are not covered by Pennsylvania's public-records law, but the state Treasury Department provided an abridged version of Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr.'s whereabouts on workdays at the Inquirer's request.
It included city location by date and whether the Democratic candidate spent the majority of the day on Treasury business or on his campaign - a determination made by the Treasury's communications director. The schedule did not detail his daily meetings or activities after work hours or on the weekends.
His work schedule was then matched against his campaign-finance reports to determine where he was and from whom he raised money as he traveled. The Casey campaign would not provide a list of his fund-raisers by date and city.
Republican Sen. Rick Santorum's campaign did provide a list telling where and when he held fund-raisers.
Santorum's schedule was initially pieced together through his roll-call votes, public events, and a review of his campaign-finance filings. The fund-raising list compiled by his campaign, which detailed the number of events he held in each city, filled in the gaps.
The review covered 10 months last year, from March 1 through Dec. 31. Casey entered the race March 4, and Dec. 31 was the end of the most recent campaign reporting cycle.