Why don't congressmen give back 'special interest money' they condemn? UPDATED: Van Hollen flak dances 

Democrats on Capitol Hill are reacting with fury to today's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, claiming it opens the floodgates for evil "special interest" money to corrupt Congress.

Typical is this statement from Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, during a joint news conference with Sen. Charles Schumer of New York:

“This is a very, very sad day for American democracy and this is a very radical, radical decision that came out of the Supreme Court of the United States – a court that said they respected precedent.

“This throws out decades of precedent designed to protect the citizens and the integrity of our political process against big money special interests. It will open the floodgate, if left unchecked and unchallenged, to more and more special interest money, big corporation money, at a time, as my colleague Senator Schumer said, we need to be reducing the amount of influence of special interest money."

Struck by that last sentence in Van Hollen's statement, I checked OpenSecrets.org and found that he has accepted more than $300,000 in contributions from just five special interest groupings towards his 2010 re-election campaign.

The five special interests giving beaucoup bucks to Van Hollen despite the fact he represents one of the nation's most solidly Democratic districts, include: lawyers/law firms ($112,525), health professionals ($60,350), real estate ($53,850), retirees ($46,905), and insurance ($37,650), for a grand total of $311,280.

Remember, that $311,280 is from only five special interests groupings and only for the current campaign cycle.

Curious, I emailed Bridgett Frey, Van Hollen's press secretary, and asked this question:

"Bridgett, in view of your boss saying we 'need to be reducing the amount of influence of special interest money,' how much special interest money is your boss returning this year? I note that he has thus far received nearly $300,000 in campaign contributions from just five special interests, according to OpenSecrets.org."

(Note: I should have said "more than $300,000")

No answer as yet from Frey.

For the full data on Van Hollen's campaign contributions since he entered Congress, go here on OpenSecrets.org.

UPDATED: Van Hollen spokesman evades

Here's the emailed response received from Van Hollen's spokesman:

“Congressman Van Hollen strongly supports limiting the amount of special interest money that can be used to influence elections. McCain-Feingold was an important step in that effort, but more can be done. He has been one of the leading campaign finance and lobbying reform advocates, and led the effort to pass tough lobbying and ethics legislation. This ruling opens the floodgates to millions of dollars of corporate money that can be used to influence elections and further erode Americans’ trust in our political system.”

UPDATE II: A revised Frey response

“There is a huge difference between raising money from individuals and political action committees under the tight limits of our current campaign finance laws, and unlimited expenditures straight out of corporate coffers. Anyone who can’t see the difference is an idiot,” said Bridgett Frey, spokeswoman for Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

And my apologies for mispelling Ms. Frey's first name in the original post here.


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