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Big PAC Money Flows To New Republican House Chairmen

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It's true what they say about victors and spoils.

Fundraising reports for the first quarter of 2011 show that the new Republican chairmen of key House committees are suddenly raking in a lot of money.

Consider Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), whose Energy and Commerce Committee has been the white-hot center of corporate America's furious (but not yet successful) attempts to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, roll back the health care reform bill and stave off regulation of Internet service providers.

Upton's 2012 reelection campaign took in a tidy $355,336 from January to March -- typically a slow time for fundraising, it being quite a long time before the next election. Of that sum, almost 80 percent came from political action committees, or PACs, rather than individuals.

The list of Upton's top PAC donors was, not surprisingly, heavy with mining interests and electric utilities, health care insurers and providers, and telecom companies. Nineteen of the 58 PACs that gave him money donated $5,000 each, their maximum allowable donation to a particular candidate in an election cycle. Those donors included committees representing ExxonMobil, AT&T, Qwest and Verizon.

The really big money flows through the House Ways and Means Committee, however. Similarly, big money flowed to Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who got money from almost every kind of PAC imaginable. He took in $497,922 -- almost half a million dollars -- in the first three months of the year; $429,401 of which came from PACs.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the new media darling and author of a budget plan that meets almost every corporate desire, took in $388,938. Most of that -- possibly reflecting all the airtime he's getting -- came from individuals; a relatively modest $142,200 came from PACs.

None of these gentlemen raised nearly as much two years ago, at the same point in the 2010 election cycle -- before they were chairmen. Back in Q1 2009, Upton, for instance, took in only $70,492 -- or about a fifth of his 2011 haul.

But the biggest change in fortunes belongs to Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee -- aka "The Cash Committee."

Two years ago this quarter, Bachus's campaign took in a modest $35,125. But this time around, Bachus has $299,439 to show for his troubles, half of it from PACs.

Paul Blumenthal of the Sunlight Foundation crunched the numbers and found that, believe it or not, the vast majority of Bachus's money came from the financial sector. "[O]ver seventy percent of his total first quarter campaign contributions from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector," Blumenthal wrote.

First-quarter fundraising reports were due Friday, but as of Saturday morning, the Federal Election Commission website still didn't show one for Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Ca.), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. McKeon has not been the least bit humble about the extraordinary fundraising possibilities inherent in being on his committee. So it's possible his team is having a hard time counting that high.

Among the top House Republican leadership, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reported taking in $536,548; Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) raised $1,134,911; and all the various political committees controlled by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) collected more than $4.8 million.

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Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. You can send him an e-mail, bookmark his page; subscribe to his RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get e-mail alerts when he writes.