"If you a hustla, you gonna get dough And that's how it goes." — Bryan "Birdman" Williams
If Potomac politics exists in a world fueled by influence, access and information, money serves as that world's source of gravity, pulling congressmen with measurable certainty. Thankfully, members of Congress must report their campaign finance information to the Federal Election Commission on a quarterly basis.
The latest reports cover contributions, lines of credit, expenses and a handful of other financial odds and ends from the period spanning Jan. 1 to March 31.
Here are five things worth knowing:
1. Redistricting was expensive. Veteran GOP congressmen took an early, unified stance, beginning at a dinner Jan. 19 at Hunan Dynasty on Capitol Hill, a meal the campaign of Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, underwrote for $600. Alexander is also the dean of the delegation.
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, spent $4,000 for a "redistricting report" from the Lafayette-based Caid Group several weeks before the D.C. dinner meeting. Most of the delegation's other members did likewise. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, spent $8,000 on the Caid Group, as did Alexander. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, shelled out $4,000 in early January.
That's $24,000 for the Caid Group in the months preceding the Legislature's special redistricting session. According to the Secretary of State's records, the company lists as its agent John W. Sutherlin, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Sutherlin reportedly also advised state Sen. Robert Kostelka, R-Monroe, who chairs the Senate's redistricting committee.
2. Cassidy has the biggest bank. When it comes to campaign kitties that really purr, look no further than Cassidy. He has more than $1 million on hand.
During the last quarter, Rep. John Fleming, R-Shreveport, raised the most, nearly $350,000. But he had only $303,000 in the bank as of March 31. The closest to Cassidy is Boustany, who has $694,000 on hand; then Scalise with $480,000; freshman Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, $171,000; fellow rookie Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, $87,000; and Alexander, the dean, trailing far behind with only $35,000.
Cassidy's campaign spent $48,500 during the past three months — more than $6,000 to reimburse the congressman and his wife for travel, and $290 attributed to "babysitting for GOP retreat." Alexander's campaign likewise doled out $5,800 in travel reimbursements to the congressman and his bride.
3. Buying conservative cred. Anyone can do it. Just ask Landry, who is slated to face Boustany in Louisiana's newly drawn 3rd Congressional District in 2012.
Landry donated $5,000 to the Fund for Self Government, which is connected to a group that prepares "young people for leadership, teaching them the ideas of freedom and a free-market economy." It could go a long way in helping Landry keep his Tea Party followers faithful.
Fleming also knows a thing or two about buying conservative cred — just check out his recent $1,000 media buy on the Moon Griffon radio show.
4. Campaign cash is good eats. Scalise recently hosted a $3,000 dinner at Galatoire's. That's more than 300 duck crepes. He also gave $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which doesn't even serve crab maison.
5. Campaign debt is real. They may preach fiscal conservatism, but many members of Congress operate campaigns that carry serious debt.
Richmond, who considers himself a "fiscal conservative," spent more than $32,000 on consultants and $2,000 with Deep South Investigations of Gretna during the last quarter. Despite raising $165,000, his campaign is carrying $208,000 in debt. About $59,000 is due to vendors to his 2010 campaign; another $149,000 represents loans he made to the campaign.
Alexander's campaign has $15,000 in debt owed to the candidate, although the candidate paid off $10,000 of that sum this past quarter. Landry collected $4,200 from his campaign this cycle, but is still owed $38,000.
All campaign finance reports can be viewed at www.fec.gov.
Jeremy Alford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.