Political donors bet on Whitehead

Associated Press
Paul Broun: New congressman received no funding from political action committees in his run for the House.

WASHINGTON - Forgive Paul Broun if he's grinning as lobbyists and business leaders stop by his new Capitol Hill office in the coming weeks to welcome him to Washington.

It's the same crowd that essentially ignored the new congressman during his campaign. When Dr. Broun upended conventional wisdom and beat former Republican state Sen. Jim Whitehead by a few hundred votes last month, no one was more surprised than they were.

The proof is in their campaign contributions.

Dr. Broun, a Republican from Athens, didn't get a dime from industry-backed political action committees, not even from the trade groups representing his medical profession.

Mr. Whitehead, meanwhile, raked in more than $175,000 from PACs, including from Georgia companies such as UPS Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co. and from national groups such as the American Bankers Association, the American Association of Orthodontists and the U.S. Telecom Association.

"What we know about PACs is they like to bet on winners. It tells us that like everybody else they thought that Whitehead had it sewn up," said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political scientist.

Many of the groups did not respond to phone calls this week about their giving. Those who did said they still hope to have a good relationship with Dr. Broun.

"We establish relationships with members of Congress above and beyond PAC dollars." said Malcolm Berkley, a spokesman for UPS, whose group gave Mr. Whitehead $5,000.

Mr. Berkley said he didn't know whether the company would donate to Dr. Broun in the future.

Dr. Broun said he won't hold any grudges; he might need the groups' support soon.

"I'm in a little different position now than I was before, so hopefully people will take me a little more seriously," he said. "My vote can't be bought by anybody, but I'll be glad to have anybody come by."

Mr. Bullock and Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University, said just how much the groups give Dr. Broun in the coming months will say a lot about how long they think he will be in office. "One of the things that groups who bet on the wrong horse will do is try to quickly get on the right side, so you may be seeing some of that," Mr. Bullock said. On the other hand, he said, they might hold back, signaling that they see his grip on the office as "tenuous."