WASHINGTON – Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, President-elect Barack Obama’s top pick for Homeland Security secretary, heads a fundraising committee that collected thousands of dollars from special interests and gave money to Democratic House campaigns nationwide for the fall elections.
Napolitano is honorary chairwoman of the Competitive Edge PAC, which took in at least $390,000 in the 2007-08 election cycle. Its fundraising includes about $315,000 from individuals and $65,500 from political action committees.
Competitive Edge resembles the so-called leadership PACs maintained by many members of Congress and used to further their political careers. Such PACs help politicians build name recognition, broaden their fundraising reach and strengthen support for themselves within their party, in part by making campaign contributions.
The term-limited Napolitano was considered a possible Obama running mate this year and has been viewed as a potential candidate for Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s seat when he retires.
Napolitano spokeswoman Shilo Mitchell said the PAC’s officers asked Napolitano to get involved with the organization, which was created to support candidates and elected officials “who have shown an interest in the competitiveness agenda that the governor championed” as chair of the National Governors Association.
The PAC is run by consultants and has no office or employees, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.
The PAC’s donations include $2,500 from Pinnacle West Capital Corp., a federal contractor whose Arizona Public Service Co. subsidiary operates the nation’s largest nuclear power plant, the Palo Verde complex in Arizona. The three-reactor plant has drawn frequent scrutiny and criticism from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. APS is state and federally regulated.
Also giving were PACs for federal contractors Aramark, a Philadelphia-based food services, facilities management and uniform company; the Virginia-based MAXIMUS government operations and consulting firm; and Level 3 Communications, a Colorado communications services company whose clients have included the Homeland Security Department’s Transportation Security Administration.
Napolitano’s committee received $5,000 each from PACs representing financial services interests including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America, $4,000 from the Arizona Bankers Association PAC and $1,000 from the American Express PAC. Railroad company Union Pacific’s PAC gave $5,000.
The PAC collected $5,000 from Greenberg Traurig, a nationwide law and lobbying firm that has lobbied Arizona’s state government for a variety of businesses. PACs for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, International Association of Firefighters and Teamsters gave $5,000 each.
Four Arizona Indian tribes with casinos contributed. The Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and the Tohono O’odham Nation gave $10,000 each. The Ak-Chin Indian Community and the Yavapai Apache Nation each donated $5,000. The tribes’ casinos are regulated by the state and the federal government.
Several past and present Arizona lobbyists donated. Washington contributors include airline lobbyist Linda Daschle and her husband, former Sen. Tom Daschle, a public policy adviser at the law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird and Obama’s choice to head the Health and Human Services Department.
Other Washington donors include Dan Glickman, chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America, and Broderick D. Johnson, a lobbyist and chairman of Bryan Cave Strategies. Johnson’s firm is an affiliate of Bryan Cave LLP, which has lobbied in Arizona for Union Pacific and BHP Copper.
The PAC was formed in mid-2007, about seven months after Napolitano won her second term. For her 2006 re-election bid, she turned away most private money in favor of about $1.5 million from Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Participating candidates may raise only limited individual donations and cannot take PAC money. Napolitano collected $46,440 from individuals for the race.
Competitive Edge has donated mostly to congressional candidates. It gave at least $49,000 to Democrats nationwide, including successful Senate candidates Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Mark Warner of Virginia, both former governors.
House candidates in at least 19 states received donations. The PAC gave $1,000 to former Florida Rep. Tim Mahoney in September, before news broke that he had cheated on his wife. Mahoney later admitted to multiple extramarital affairs. He lost re-election this month.
The bulk of the PAC’s spending, about $147,000, covered operating costs such as fundraising and legal compliance. It had about $186,000 on hand as of mid-October, its most recent FEC report.