October 21, 2002
Gaming tribes donate freely to Hayworth
By Jon Kamman, The Arizona Republic
Indian tribes with gaming interests have handed Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth $225,000 to use as he pleases to back other Republican candidates and enhance his own prospects of winning a high leadership position.
The money has been channeled through a political action committee created four years ago separate from Hayworth's own highly successful campaign fund.
As Hayworth seeks a fifth term while also campaigning in Congress for elevation to a plum leadership role, the nature of his PAC raises questions about how impartial he can be on Native American and competing gambling issues and whether he is using Indians as a steppingstone to more power.
Also, his PAC's redistribution of donations makes it difficult for the public to recognize that candidates across the country are accepting donations from Indian gaming interests because recipients legitimately list the source as an obscure PAC.
Hayworth's T.E.A.M. PAC (Together Everyone Achieves More) is unusual for its heavy reliance on one narrow interest for the bulk of its support.
Nearly 60 percent of T.E.A.M.'s $395,000 receipts at latest report came from more than 30 tribes or their lobbyists in 14 states. Seven Arizona tribes gave $39,000.
The Scottsdale Republican's campaign spokesman, Joe Eule, defended the contributions as nothing out of the ordinary and said they are given willingly by tribes and others. The money is fully traceable through public records, he said, although Arizona Republic research shows that doing so is a time-consuming, sometimes-circuitous exercise.
Hayworth's PAC collects most of its money in amounts of $5,000. He has distributed it, usually in $1,000 increments, to the campaign funds of about 100 congressional candidates, mostly incumbents, and to GOP committees.
Gearing for leadership
Recipients soon may show their appreciation by voting for him to become Republican Conference chairman. The job, also sought by two others, is considered the fourth-highest post in the U.S. House.
Two colleagues backing Hayworth's bid, Reps. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sam Graves, R-Mo., lauded his fund-raising prowess in a letter this month to GOP members of the House. They noted that he has made appearances in 20 states.
"J.D.'s outreach work to Native Americans is a blueprint for how Republicans should approach other minority groups who usually vote with Democrats," they wrote. He also was instrumental in creating a Native American Leadership Forum that has generated $200,000, they said.
Although they credited him with distributing $300,000 from his PAC, records show that the total for the latest reporting period, through Aug. 31, was $171,000.
A spokesman for Graves acknowledged Friday that the letter apparently misinterpreted figures provided by Hayworth's office.
Wife on payroll
Meanwhile, the costs of operating the fund-raising PAC have reached $183,000, or more than has been distributed to candidates.
Hayworth's wife, Mary, is on the T.E.A.M. payroll at about $25,000 a year. Federal Election Commission officials say paying a spouse is legal if he or she actually performs work.
Mary Hayworth handles bookkeeping and many administrative details, spokesman Eule said. Records also show substantial payments to fund-raising consultants and a California accounting firm for administrative and financial work. Travel and fund-raising events account for additional expenses.
While many tribes are donating $5,000 a year for Hayworth to parcel out to other candidates, they and their lobbyists have given little or nothing to the congressman's own re-election account, which has brought in $1.25 million in the current campaign.
Indians' good friend
Hayworth is considered one of Native Americans' best friends in Congress, National Indian Gaming Association lobbyist John Harte said.
In turn, Eule said, Hayworth is gratified that Indians consider him worthy of support. He has made no special concessions to Native Americans but is genuinely interested in helping them become self-sufficient, Eule said.
As a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which shapes tax law, Hayworth has blocked efforts by his own party to tax casino and other on-reservation businesses, arguing that to do so would violate the Constitution.
He also is a member of the Resources Committee, which handles numerous Indian issues. Records show that his PAC has donated money to two other members of the committee.
Hayworth also is co-chairman of the Congressional Native American Caucus. His closeness to Indians' gaming interests is illustrated by a photo of him grappling playfully with Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, at the group's legislative conference in June. The association represents 168 tribes on gaming issues.
Many politicians set up "leadership" PACs, which allow a donor to give $10,000 in each two-year election cycle on top of the $2,000 limit for donations to a candidate's individual account.
Officeholders who control such a PAC seldom channel any funds into their own campaigns, but ingratiate themselves by doling it out to colleagues' races.
Hayworth's PAC gave fellow Arizona Congressman John Shadegg's campaign fund $1,000 in May, but Shadegg returned it. A spokesman said Shadegg thought the money should be used in a more competitive race.
Coincidentally or not, Shadegg's office confirmed last week that he was supporting a Hayworth rival for conference chairman.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign funding, calls leadership PACs "another loophole in campaign finance laws." The funds will remain legal under long-sought reform measures that take effect after the Nov. 5 election.
In contrast to Hayworth's fund, PACs created by Arizona's GOP senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, have diverse contributors. McCain's Straight Talk PAC has received more than $1 million this year, virtually all from individual contributors and largely in amounts of less than $200.
Hayworth, an insurance agent and television sports anchor before going to Congress, has represented a mostly rural area - the state's largest district both in territory and population - for eight years.
He is running for re-election Nov. 5 in the newly drawn District 5, an urban swath from Scottsdale to Ahwatukee. His opponents are Democrat Craig Columbus and Libertarian Warren Severin.
Hayworth is the clear record-holder for fund-raising in the state's congressional races, having pulled in $6 million, or more than $2,000 a day, since taking office nearly eight years ago.
Further, colleagues credit him with tapping a council of business leaders for $1.6 million in the past two years - again, more than $2,000 a day - to help fund GOP congressional campaigns.
Membership on Ways and Means provides a golden opportunity for fund-raising as interests spanning health care, insurance, home building, finance, industry and many other sectors compete for an ear sympathetic to their tax concerns.
Rules on giving and receiving donations are much less restrictive for PACs than for individual campaign funds, so upward of 200 congressional leaders or would-be leaders have created such vehicles to enhance their own clout while backing their party's candidates.
Tapping tribal sources
Donations to Hayworth's PAC began arriving in early 1999 shortly after $3 million worth of lobbying by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians beat back an attempt to impose a tax on reservation business. The Choctaws soon proceeded with plans to build their first casino.
The tribe was one of the first donors to T.E.A.M. PAC, with a $5,000 check. Its lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, considered one of the most powerful in the industry, chipped in $1,000 at the same time.
Hayworth recognized early the potential for Republicans to attract contributions from Native American interests, traditionally supporters of Democrats.
In 1999, its first year of solicitations, his PAC brought in $41,000 from tribes and their lobbyists. The next year, receipts from those sources doubled.
"More and more, it's not out of the ordinary for tribes to be making contributions to campaigns," said the Indian gaming association's Harte.
"In the past, we just haven't had much access (to Congress). Tribes are realizing that this is the way of thanking their friends and making new friends," he said.