Money for nothing - Page 2

Nancy Pelosi is raising millions of dollars, but keeping very little for her own reelection campaign

that are closely tied to former Republican Senate majority leader Bill Frist and includes the Hospital Corporation of America and Ardent Health Services.

Just this year, the state of California hired CCA to house 8,000 inmates at six of the company's facilities; a significant portion will go to a new $205 million CCA complex under construction in Arizona.

The nation's largest private jail company suffered bad publicity during the 1990s due to a series of high-profile escapes and inmate killings inside its prisons. It teetered on the edge of bankruptcy after overbuilding jails without having enough inmates available to fill them, but the George W. Bush administration helped save the company with a new homeland security agenda that called for confining rather than releasing undocumented immigrants while they awaited deportation or asylum-request proceedings. The company's revenue jumped nearly a half-billion dollars over the last five years and its lobbying activities in Washington, DC have increased similarly.

The entertainment industry has ponied up its share to Pelosi as well. The maximum $4,600 donation came from Aaron Sorkin, powerhouse writer behind the long-running TV series The West Wing and the 2007 film Charlie Wilson's War. Christie Hefner, a regular donor to Democrats and heiress to Playboy Enterprises, contributed $1,000.

Steven Bing, a Hollywood producer who inherited a real estate fortune, and billionaire Las Vegas developer Kirk Kerkorian gave thousands to Pelosi over the last two years. Kerkorian has given to both parties, but he and Bing share a special relationship after having fought a nasty tabloid war.

Kerkorian allegedly hired private investigators to sift through Bing's trash in search of DNA evidence that would link him to a child borne by Kerkorian's ex-wife, whom he was divorcing, according to a lawsuit filed by Bing. Vanity Fair in July described Bing as part of a skirt-chasing entourage that ran with Bill Clinton and threatened to tarnish Hillary Clinton's presidential bid with its freewheeling bachelor reputation.

The wealthy Herbert and Marion Sandler, major supporters of and other social justice causes, gave Pelosi a combined $9,200. The couple presided over the meteoric rise of Oakland mortgage lender Golden West Financial, which sold to Wachovia for $24 billion in 2006. The housing crisis led Wachovia to post staggering multibillion-dollar losses this summer, and some business writers have attributed its declining fortunes to the Golden West purchase.

In June, George Zimmer of Fremont, founder of the Men's Warehouse, gave $2,300. Notable husband and wife political team Clint and Janet Reilly, both active as candidates and donors, contributed a total of $19,200 to Pelosi's campaign and PAC.

"Essentially, raising money for the party and its candidates is required of leaders," Money in the House author Currinder told the Guardian. "Pelosi wouldn't have been elected speaker if she wasn't a stellar fundraiser."

So where is Pelosi's money going if not to television ads for her own campaign? She divided $250,000 among the campaigns of approximately 70 congressional candidates, and disbursed about $532,000 more to them through PAC to the Future. The beneficiaries included $14,000 to Democrat Chet Edwards of Texas, whose district includes President George W. Bush's Crawford ranch. Pelosi has publicly recommended him to Barack Obama as a possible running mate.

In addition, about half of the money Pelosi has raised since the beginning of 2007, slightly more than $1 million, went to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, DC. She also gave to the Democratic parties of key battleground states including Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Ohio. She singled out Democrat Travis Childers of Mississippi for extra cash totaling $21,000.

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