Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Chambliss’ Golf Handicap

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a report on Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who is facing a runoff election for his seat, and how he has run the Republican Majority Fund. This is the vile jerk who beat Max Cleland 6 years ago by running an ad comparing him to Osama Bin Laden, which led even John McCain to call the ad “worse than disgraceful… reprehensible.”

The Republican Majority Fund is a PAC that has been around since the 1970s to support Republican candidates. Chambliss had the group handed to him by retiring Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma and he has run the group for the last 4 years. Since then, the AJC reports, he’s turned it into a personal slush fund to pay for expensive golf outings.

The Majority Fund is one of about 300 so-called leadership committees run by members of Congress, used to raise money outside their personal re-election campaigns. Federal law lets each donor give $5,000 a year.

Such committees, said Meredith McGehee, policy director of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington, are “a widespread and common practice and are, at their core, a political slush fund.”

The Majority Fund has raised and spent about $1.4 million since 2005. Almost all of the money came from political action committees and their lobbyists: representatives of defense contractors, agricultural interests and financial firms.

Chambliss often uses the Majority Fund to pay for perquisites — golf, meals, private jets — that ethics rules would prevent others from providing. Since 2005, it has paid for Chambliss to take 20 golf trips with lobbyists to elite courses across the country.

In fact, a very small percentage of the fund is being used to support candidates:

Many lawmakers use leadership committees to help others — and themselves.

Giving tens of thousands of dollars to colleagues could be rewarded with more desirable committee assignments, support for legislation or even prime office space.

Under Chambliss, however, 68 percent of the Majority Fund’s spending – about $1 million – has gone for travel, golf events, meals and administrative costs, reports to the Federal Election Commission show. Political contributions comprised just 32 percent of the committee’s spending, or $472,500.

In 2007 and 2008, the Majority Fund’s political donations accounted for 26 percent of its spending, the second-lowest among the 25 largest leadership groups.

Mitchell, the Majority Fund lawyer, said overhead runs high because the committee meticulously follows bookkeeping rules.

Still, of the top 10 recipients of the Majority Fund’s money since 2007, only one was a political organization.

Five were golf resorts.

Nice work if you can get it. Chambliss is a 6.5 handicap at golf, making him the second best golfer in the Senate. He seems to have recovered fully from the bad knee that kept him from going to Vietnam, where he might have served next to the handicapped veteran that he savaged so dishonestly to get his seat in the Senate.