The Washington Post

Money pours in for unopposed member of Congress

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa,), accompanied by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Everyone loves to back a winner. And Charlie Dent is a pretty sure bet.

Rep. Dent (R-Pa.) boasted one of the best fundraising quarters of his congressional career. He hauled in more than $400,000 this spring.

“It is humbling to receive such strong support for my reelection,” the five-term congressman said in a statement.

The release is pretty standard end of the financial quarter fare — such notices have reliably begun to trickle in this week — except for one thing: Dent doesn’t really have a reelection campaign. He’s running unopposed.

Reports aren’t due to the Federal Election Commission until July 15, so we couldn’t see Dent’s itemized contributions. His campaign tells us a little more than half — $214,812 — came from individuals and $188,812 from PACs and other organizations. They cite top contributors as big business types like Norfolk Southern, Merck and American Council of Engineering Companies.

Without being able to see the specifics, David Wasserman, who handicaps House races for the Cook Political Report, said the generous support for Dent is more symbolic because he is representative of interests that reach far beyond his district.

“He doesn’t need help [winning reelection], but what he needs help at is building influence as the de facto leader of the Main Street mind-set,” Wasserman said.

Dent has built a reputation as a centrist with moderate views on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. He co-chairs the Tuesday Group, a caucus of Republicans who largely identify themselves as more middle of the road politically, though since the 2010 tea party wave the definition of what is a moderate is harder to pin down.

Unlike party leaders, however, Dent doesn’t spread the wealth around to individual colleagues (not a whole of moderates left to give to, we guess). He gave a lump sum of $23,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee as of the last quarter filing deadline at the end of March (though members are required to pay dues, so it’s not all charity). And from his leadership PAC he gave one donation in the first quarter of the year to GOP candidate Ryan Costello, who is running for an open seat in a neighboring Pennsylvania district.

A significant chunk of incumbents are also not facing a challenge heading into November. Of the 31 states that have held their primaries, 48 incumbents out of 273 will be unopposed, according to the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Without the risk of losing their job, does that give them more or less incentive to get work done?

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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