August 17, 2004
Must be nice to have so many friends

Becky Klein is running against Rep. Lloyd Doggett in the new CD25. Nobody thinks she's going to win, but an array of corporate benefactors are throwing money her way anyway because she might someday be the head of the FCC.

Why is Klein such a draw? Because administration officials have said that in the event of a second Bush term, she would be considered by the president, for whom she served as a senior policy adviser when he was governor, as a candidate to be the next head of the Federal Communications Commission. And even if that does not work out, she is expected to receive a seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should a vacancy occur.

Klein, who stepped down in January as chairwoman of the state Public Utility Commission, is challenging Doggett in the newly created Congressional District 25, which snakes 350 miles from the southern end of Austin to McAllen on the Texas-Mexico border. As of June 30, according to federal records, Klein had raised about $450,000, compared with more than $1.1 million raised by Doggett.

But much of her money has come from a highly motivated group of executives from companies -- many of them ones she once regulated as head of the utility commission -- that are investing not so much in her current congressional campaign as in the right to be considered Friends of Becky.

"Washington is all about relationships, and her relationships are far, wide and deep," said a senior executive at a large telephone company who is a supporter and spoke only if not identified. "Washington is also about getting in early -- that's the way the game is played.

"She's not going to win the race," the executive added.

Other supporters said that contributing to her campaign was a no-lose proposition; if she beats the odds to win, they would be happy, if surprised. But they acknowledged that as a first-term member of Congress, Klein would have less power to affect their interests than if she were appointed to a top regulatory job, as they expect.

Gene Kimmelman, a senior director at Consumers Union, put the matter more succinctly: "Clearly, the companies are investing in the future. This is an interesting story about how Washington works."

Well, isn't that special? There's your next frontier in campaign finance - buying futures in candidates. All they need is a way to hedge against the risk that her friends in high places may themselves fall out of power and it could turn into a nice little investment vehicle.

Nathan notes that Becky got started funraising as she was leaving her job with the PUC, something she now denies doing. That's the thing about email, Becky - like roaches, you can never truly eradicate emails.

UPDATE: Seth notes that Becky Klein, by far, has the worst disclosure rate for campaign contributions of any House or Senate candiadate. (Ted Poe, running against Rep. Nick Lampson, is fourth worst in the House races and sixth worst overall.) As noted elsewhere by Political Wire, disclosure comes from the contributors, not the candidates, and I believe small donors are not required to disclose their information, so there's only so much you can read into that. Still, she's way, way out of whack with other candidates, and based on this story, I'd bet it's not because she's a champion of the grassroots.

Greg also piles on.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 17, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack