Democrats are accusing Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.), chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, of misleading donors and the Florida media by playing up his chances of becoming the next chairman of the full committee even though most lawmakers expect Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.) to get the nod.
Shaw has told donors and local editorial boards that he could become chairman in 2007, Democrats and lobbyists have said, but one prominent lobbyist said Shaw may no longer be making this claim.
“I have had people say to me that it’s been represented by Shaw that he is going to be the next chair and that it would be silly to support me,” said state Sen. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), who is challenging Shaw. “It’s being used as a tactic to raise money or try to inhibit my fundraising.”
A columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has written that, if Klein wins in next year’s midterm election, Florida could lose a future committee chairman. Columns saying the same thing have appeared in the weekly Boca Raton News.
The Sun-Sentinel columnist wrote, “If Shaw loses the chairmanship, the cost to South Florida could be enormous. Ways & Means oversees all tax, trade and Social Security legislation. … Shaw argues that the Florida delegation should be unified behind his quest and stay out of his reelection race.”
Shaw, a 13-term lawmaker, told The Hill, “I have every intention of giving it my best effort. I have a story to tell. Is it a slam-dunk? No,” adding that he has the most impressive legislative record of any of his rivals.
Democrats said Shaw’s argument is reasonable but inaccurate.
A high-ranking Democratic lawmaker said, “It’s a two-person race between McCrery and Rangel,” referring to Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who would face no internal opposition for the chairmanship if Democrats win the House in the midterms. Rangel has given more than $70,000 to Democrats and $85,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
McCrery is the widely perceived front-runner because of his ability to raise money and an agreement between McCrery and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who persuaded McCrery not to retire from Congress last year by promising him a much bigger role on the tax-writing panel. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle interpreted Hastert’s words as an unspoken promise that he would support McCrery’s bid for the chairmanship.
McCrery has given thousands of dollars from his political action committee, the Committee to Preserve Capitalism, to 34 Republican incumbents and challengers and contributed $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), according to politicalmoneyline.com.
Shaw, whose Sunshine PAC has directed $1,000 to 20 GOP incumbents, said he could not raise as much money and build up chits like McCrery because he has faced tight reelection races.
House Democratic leaders helped Klein add $50,000 to his coffers last week at a fundraiser here. Despite Klein’s early success, Shaw still has $1.2 million in the bank with 11 months before the election.