Nation/World

Pac Gifts Drop For Indebted Chenoweth Contributions Trail Off After Comments On Oklahoma City Bombing

U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, still facing a large campaign debt, saw her PAC contributions drop after her controversial comments on the Oklahoma City bombing.

According to her finance report for the first half of 1995, the Idaho Republican received more than twice as much in political action committee contributions before the bombing as after. Her contributions from individuals also declined.

Political experts say other factors could explain the drop in PAC money, and Chenoweth’s campaign says fund raising is going strong.

Idaho Democratic Chairman Bill Mauk said he would have expected Chenoweth’s publicity to help her.

“The fact that she’s still got $150,000 in debt at a time when she couldn’t have more publicity suggests that the depth of support financially that she might have hoped for isn’t there,” Mauk said. He added that for Democrats, the debt means any candidate who declares against Chenoweth now already is ahead of her in fund raising. “That’s a pretty attractive proposition.”

Boise attorney Dan Williams has announced plans to challenge Chenoweth; he reported raising $14,500 for his Democratic bid since May. Businessman Doug Dorn, a Republican, also has expressed interest in challenging Chenoweth.

Chenoweth garnered national headlines when she refused to condemn the militia movement, even as ties between the bombing suspects and militias were coming to light. She consistently has spoken against what she sees as excesses by federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies and has suggested the government is pushing citizens too far.

Keith Rupp, who is Chenoweth’s chief of staff but spoke Tuesday as a member of her campaign, said Chenoweth has kept a “crazed pace” with the demands of her first half- year in Congress. Raising more than $122,000 during that time was impressive, he said.

About $55,000 came from individuals, nearly all of them Idahoans.

She spent $112,882, with about $62,000 going toward campaign bills and debts, Rupp said. The rest covered operating expenses. The campaign has $11,938 cash on hand.

Campaign contributions “ebb and flow,” Chenoweth said Tuesday night. “Contributions have actually picked up lately at my campaign office.”

Chenoweth had a $170,000 campaign debt in December, and said then she expected to have it paid off by summer.

About $95,000 of the campaign debt was Chenoweth’s own money. She put in $60,000 from a land sale, and then took out a bank loan to finance another $40,000 loan to the campaign after the election.

“Helen is not a wealthy woman. She would obviously like to recoup that loan,” Rupp said. But other debts will be paid first, he said. They include unpaid bills to printers, consultants and more.

“The bad news is that we owe $151,000, but we expect to have all of the debt to vendors paid off well before the end of the year,” Rupp said.

Larry J. Sabato, a professor of government at the University of Virginia and the author of several books on campaign finance, said, “I know she is a very controversial person.” But, he added, “There is an alternate explanation” for the drop-off in Chenoweth’s PAC contributions.

Such contributions traditionally are seasonal, coming in clumps just before and just after elections, he said. “Then there’s a long dry spell. It used to be longer,” before candidates started gearing up so early for the next election.

Rep. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, also got more PAC contributions before April 19 than after, though by a lesser margin. But Republican Sens. Dirk Kempthorne and Larry Craig both received most of their PAC money after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Sabato said he wouldn’t expect Chenoweth to have any problem raising money. Typically, ideological candidates on either the left or the right “always have the money they need,” he said.

“She’s a heroine on the right. My guess is that groups and individuals on the right will generate whatever money she needs, when she needs it.”

Rupp said July, which was not included in the latest finance report, was a “gangbusters” month for Chenoweth’s fund raising. “Helen raised $34,000 in July alone,” he said.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, received the following contributions in the first half of 1995: PAC contributions: $45,486 before the Oklahoma City bombing, $20,850 after. Individual contributions: $18,295 before the Oklahoma City bombing, $13,345 after. She reported raising a total of $122,186 in the six-month period and spending $112,882, leaving a campaign debt of $151,675.

Sen. Larry Craig reported: He raised $424,308 in the six-month period and spent $191,277. He has $388,156 in cash in his campaign war chest.

Sen. Dirk Kempthorne reported: He raised $32,155 in the six-month period and spent $20,360. He has $16,968 in campaign cash.

Rep. Mike Crapo reported: He raised $72,663 and spent $53,113. He has $182,964 for next campaign.

This sidebar appeared with the story: CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, received the following contributions in the first half of 1995: PAC contributions: $45,486 before the Oklahoma City bombing, $20,850 after. Individual contributions: $18,295 before the Oklahoma City bombing, $13,345 after. She reported raising a total of $122,186 in the six-month period and spending $112,882, leaving a campaign debt of $151,675.

Sen. Larry Craig reported: He raised $424,308 in the six-month period and spent $191,277. He has $388,156 in cash in his campaign war chest.

Sen. Dirk Kempthorne reported: He raised $32,155 in the six-month period and spent $20,360. He has $16,968 in campaign cash.

Rep. Mike Crapo reported: He raised $72,663 and spent $53,113. He has $182,964 for next campaign.



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