Rep. Thomas M. Davis III donated $300,000 last month to two Republican Party committees in his 11th Congressional District, allowing them to obtain office space and computers while leaving other GOP groups in Virginia empty-handed.
The disbursements by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which Davis chairs, were made as the committee faced a deadline, imposed by this year's campaign finance law, to disburse "soft money" contributions.
The national committee wrote checks of at least $250,000 to the Fairfax County Republican Committee and $50,000 to its Prince William County counterpart, GOP officials said.
The Fairfax committee plans to use the money to buy office space to replace its crowded and somewhat run-down rented headquarters in Annandale; the Prince William committee will buy office equipment, officials said.
Federal rules limit the use of the money to capital expenditures. The donations were reported last month in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.
Although the windfall was welcomed by Republicans in the two counties, it left some party members in neighboring jurisdictions puzzled and a bit resentful. And critics of campaign finance practices said it was ironic that a law intended to reform the process had led to an act of politics-as-usual.
Davis was unapologetic in a telephone interview yesterday. Asked if the national committee's money was spent disproportionately in his district, he said: "Of course. I'm the chairman. What do you expect?"
Among the other beneficiaries, he said, was a scholarship fund at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax. In addition, "the speaker of the House got some money in his state," Davis said. "I just made sure we took care of the home folks as well."
As for any resentment among those who did not benefit, Davis said: "I don't care. These are the areas I represent."
Suzanne Volpe, who chairs the Loudoun County Republican Committee, said she was disappointed at being left out. When she heard several weeks ago that some of the national committee's remaining soft money might be available, she asked how to apply for a share but got no response, she said.
"It would have been a wonderful opportunity for us," Volpe said. "We are a growing county, and our party has practically doubled in size over the last five years." But it still needs help, she said, as it holds only three of nine seats on Loudoun's Board of Supervisors.
"I don't know what the criteria were" to receive the money, Volpe said.
Asked whether there was a procedure to apply, Davis said, "Of course not."
The donations came from a pot of about $3 million in soft money -- previously unregulated and unlimited donations from corporations, labor unions, other organizations and wealthy individuals -- that the National Republican Congressional Committee had to get rid of last month under the campaign finance reform law. The law prohibited national political parties from collecting or disbursing soft money after the Nov. 5 elections.
Mike Lane, chairman of Virginia's 8th Congressional District Republican Committee, said it was "natural" that Davis channeled the money to his own district. "If there had been anything left, I'm sure other committees would have found a very good use for the contributions," Lane said.
Lane said the donations would be especially helpful to Republicans in Fairfax County, where the entire 10-seat Board of Supervisors is up for reelection next November. Currently, the board has three Republicans. In addition, Virginia voters will elect a new General Assembly and local constitutional officers.
Aaron Leibowitz, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, said he did not believe that other GOP committees in the state "necessarily felt they were owed this money."
Steven Weiss, spokesman for the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group, called the donations "an early Christmas gift" to Republicans in Davis's district. "It provides a good example of how the culture of money in politics is probably not going to be much different under the new system" of campaign finance, he said.