A Politician's Favorite Charity Is . . .

Dern will 'do: Laura Dern plays the spectacularly coiffed Katherine Harris in HBO's "Recount."
Dern will 'do: Laura Dern plays the spectacularly coiffed Katherine Harris in HBO's "Recount." (By Gene Page)

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By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, May 1, 2008

A pair of former senators recently decided that charity is the best way to get rid of some excess political cash -- albeit in somewhat unusual fashion.

Robert G. Torricelli, the New Jersey Democrat who left office amid a corruption scandal, walked away in 2002 with almost $3 million in his campaign account. After he was caught accepting thousands of dollars of inappropriate gifts from a favor-seeking donor, Torricelli infamously asked, "When did we become such an unforgiving people?"

Now he's trying to be more forgiving himself. According to the Record of Hackensack, Torricelli dropped more than $1.6 million from his old Senate campaign into the newly minted Rosemont Foundation, which he controls and which is based in his office.

"He sees the foundation as a way to support the causes he fought so ardently for in the Congress," Sean Jackson, a longtime aide, told the Record. Jackson cited open-space preservation and fighting breast cancer as likely worthy causes.

Torricelli still has $446,000 left in his campaign kitty, according to the latest Federal Election Commission records, enough for political donations that will yield goodwill toward his lobbying and consulting business, Rosemont Associates. Torricelli already has spent nearly $1 million from the campaign fund over the past 5 1/2 years, most of it on donations to New Jersey Democratic candidates and committees.

And then there's Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican who quit the Senate in December to become a lobbyist. Lott zeroed out his political action committee, the New Republican Majority Fund, by writing a check for nearly $200,000 in early February to a foundation associated with his alma mater, the University of Mississippi.

Lott can't get enough of Ole Miss, for which he raised millions of dollars in the 1990s to launch the Trent Lott Leadership Institute there.

Like Torricelli, Lott isn't all about charitable giving these days. While he shuttered his PAC, he still had $1.1 million left in his former reelection account, according to the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss.

That money will be rolled into a new PAC, allowing the senator-turned-lobbyist to dole out $5,000 campaign checks to former colleagues whose doors Lott will be knocking on after the one-year ban on direct lobbying by him ends in late December.

Flash Gordon

For the 19th time, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) has won the title of "fastest man in Congress." Gordon did it again Wednesday morning, beating 33 other senators and House members in the annual ACLI Capital Challenge three-mile race in Anacostia Park.

Gordon, 59, wasn't quite as fast as he was last year, but he finished in 18 minutes 40 seconds -- just 16 seconds shy of his 2007 time.

"Nineteen wins in 19 tries seems pretty good for an old guy," said Gordon spokeswoman Julie Eubank.


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