Opinion: Joe Biden once took PAC money but now is PAC-pure

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Barack Obama makes a point of rejecting money from political action committees, condemning them as a symbol of what’s wrong with insider politics in Washington.

Obama’s campaign aides have slapped at Republican John McCain’s decision to take PAC money. But now that Joe Biden has joined the ticket, Obama’s criticism of McCain might become muted.

Biden has taken significant amounts of PAC money over the years--$475,000, or more than 20% of the $2.3 million he has raised since 2005 for his Unite Our States leadership account, established to help fund other Democrats’ races.

Federal Election Commission records show that firms whose PACs have donated to Biden include Rupert Murdoch’s News America, Microsoft and Safeway. He took the PAC donations from 2005 through mid-2008, with $141,800 coming this year.


Most of the money--$279,000--came from organized labor, including $11,000 from postal workers and $25,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has a stake in congressional decisions.

Additionally, Biden has taken at least $44,750 from political action committees funded by plaintiffs’ attorneys, including $10,890 from the Assn. of Trial Lawyers of America.

Some law firms whose PACs have donated to Biden’s leadership committee have....

...lobbyist operations. Obama rejects money given by Washington lobbyists, contending that like PACs, they are emblematic of the Beltway culture.

Biden has taken at least $25,000 from PACs that represent banks, most of which backed legislation to limit consumers’ ability to declare bankruptcy. Biden supported their bill.

Biden took $24,225 from telecommunications PACs, including ones funded by AT&T and Verizon employees, and $15,000 from the cable giant Comcast’s PAC.

In keeping with Obama’s policy, Biden now refuses all PAC money. Biden spokesman David Wade said the vice presidential nominee ‘has a 35-year record standing up to powerful interests from big oil companies to big drug companies and big insurance companies.’

Still, this provides fodder for the Republicans. The Ticket also reported last night on an investigative story examining the financial links of Biden’s two sons -- Beau and Hunter -- to a law firm specializing in asbestos suits and lobbying their father.

RNC spokesman Danny Diaz said that although Obama “decries Washington insiders,” Biden “is the model Washington insider with numerous connections to those very same special interests.”

McCain, like Biden, has taken plenty of PAC money--$415,000 in a three-month period ending in July.

PACs giving to the Republican represent commercial and Indian casino interests, horse racing, phone and cable companies, tobacco and drug makers, mining, oil, farming and a company pushing to expand private prisons.

--Dan Morain

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