PACs add to Fleischmann campaign war chest, Wamp plans response

Authored By James Harrison

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann barely out-raised Weston Wamp in the fourth fundraising quarter of 2011, raking in a total of $321,230 in contributions as opposed to Wamp’s $307,646.

The figures are close, but records show that Fleischmann’s three-month tally was bolstered by $138,000 in contributions stemming from political action committees. The funds account for 44 percent of the incumbent’s haul from October to December. 

Wamp, the 24-year-old son of former Zach Wamp, received zero funds from political action committees. But he did accept a $5,000 contribution from “Zach Wamp for Governor,” his father’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign committee, which received funds from state political action committees and special interest groups, according to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance filings.

Political action committees, or PACs, are groups that raise funds with the intent of electing or defeating candidates in elections. PACS can give up to $5,000 to a candidate committee per election, and they often give their funds to incumbents seeking re-election. 

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the average House member seeking to retain their seat raised more than $665,000 PACs during the 2010 midterm election. Bruce Oppenheimer, professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University, said he was “not surprised ” at the level of PAC funding received by Fleischmann, and he added that he thinks the 3rd District primary would become even more expensive for candidates. 

“This is certainly what one would expect,” Oppenheimer said. “The PACs are familiar with Fleischmann, they know what he’s already done and [they] assume that he will likely continue with his record while in office. To see a candidate like him getting more money from PACs is not surprising at all, and I don’t think it’s an outrageous percentage.”

Wamp, who earlier issued a press release saying Fleischmann would “rely heavily on PAC money and contributions from Washington” to secure his re-election, said via email that his campaign was planning to issue another release containing “several statistics” about the incumbent’s fundraising numbers, including his thoughts on the “vast majority” of Fleischmann’s funding coming from outside of the 3rd District. 

While Wamp accepted several donations from outside district lines also, the majority of his contributions came from within the 3rd District.

With a total of $617,323 cash-on-hand, Fleischmann has more than double the amount of Wamp, his most serious opponent, who reported a total of $285,141 cash-on-hand. The two other candidates for the 3rd District Republican primary, Dr. Jean Howard-Hill and Ron Bhalla, have not yet met the $5,000 fundraising threshold to report figures to the Federal Election Commission. 

Updated @ 8:43 a.m. on 02/02/12 to fix a typographical error. Fleischmann’s total for the fourth quarter is $321,230, not $312,230.