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Richard Shelby, Spencer Bachus among most generous in Congress in sharing campaign cash

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Spencer Bachus are among the most generous members of Congress when it comes to handing out campaign cash to their colleagues and other contenders, according to an analysis of political action committees.

So far in this 2012 election cycle, Bachus’ political action committee has donated $271,500 to other candidates, the 11th-highest amount among the leadership PACs. Shelby’s has dished out $205,000, the 19th-highest amount, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. And the election is still four months away.

Topping the list is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., at more than $1.3 million, and second is House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, at just more than $1 million.

The center lists 373 leadership PACs active in this cycle that are run mostly by current and former veteran members of Congress. They are separate from their own re-election accounts, but they tend to raise money from many of the same sources. The difference is in how they spend it. Instead of helping their own elections, members use money in their leadership PACs to donate to other members of Congress or challengers in other congressional races.

Shelby and Bachus, both longtime veterans with leadership positions on their respective banking committees who usually have uncompetitive general elections, routinely are in the upper echelons of leadership PAC spending. They help their friends who are in close races, or they help Republican upstarts try to unseat Democrats or win open seats. The donating also helps curry favor with their party’s leadership and their colleagues who may have a voice in deciding whether they get a key leadership appointment.

Bachus’ PAC, Growth and Prosperity, has so far this cycle cut checks to 62 Republican House candidates and six Senate candidates. Overall, his leadership PAC spending has been on a steady decline since its high point in the 2006 cycle, when he was competing for the top Republican spot on the House Financial Services Committee. That year he raised and spent about $1 million. His colleagues appointed him to the highest-ranking Republican seat on the powerful committee. He is in his last year as chairman.

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The bulk of the donations to Growth and Prosperity in 2012 are from PACs affiliated with the industries and companies that are overseen by the financial services committee. Dozens of such PACs contributed the maximum $10,000, such as the American Bankers Association, Goldman Sachs, Regions Financial and the National Association of Realtors.

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PACs related to the insurance industry gave the most, $113,000, according to the data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

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