Rep. Steny Hoyer has his sights set on something besides re-election to his Maryland 5th District seat: He is angling to be the next majority whip should Democrats retake the House.
The Mechanicsville Democrat is laying the groundwork for that bid now, with campaign contributions to fellow Democrats from his own political action committee.
Since January 1999, Ameripac: The Fund for a Greater America has distributed $281,000 to 86 Democrats who are challenging Republican incumbents this fall, according to FECInfo, a campaign finance watchdog Web site.
The money is a combination of funds that Hoyer has raised for his so- called “leadership PAC” as well as transfers from other Democrats. Incumbents, who are required to contribute to the election of fellow Democrats, can either distribute the money themselves or give it to a leadership PAC like Hoyer’s to divide up.
Rep. Karen McCarthy, D-Missouri, donated $10,000 to Ameripac to hand out in 1998. After that election, she was appointed to the Democratic Steering Committee, which Hoyer chairs and which makes committee assignments for House Democrats.
For the 2000 elections, McCarthy has been even more generous, giving $14,000 to Hoyer’s PAC.
“I’m looking to [Hoyer], he’s the recruitment chair,” said McCarthy of Hoyer’s position recruiting new candidates for the party.
It may seem premature for Hoyer to be sowing the seeds for a leadership run before the Democrats have even gained control of the House. But there is already at least one other candidate for the majority whip position, in Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California.
Pelosi has her own leadership committee — PAC to the Future — which has distributed made 60 donations to congressional campaigns in this election cycle, totaling $440,000. Some of Pelosi’s donations also went to campaigns Hoyer’s PAC funded.
A spokeswoman for Hoyer said the congressman thinks he is winning the race for whip so far.
Current Majority Whip David Bonior, D-Michigan, who would likely move up to majority leader if the Democrats regain control of the House, is not taking sides. A spokesman acknowledged that battle lines are being drawn among Democrats, but said that both Hoyer and Pelosi are friends of Bonior’s.
“It’s not an issue if [Democrats] don’t win the House,” added Fred Clark, the Bonior spokesman.