On July 24, 2007 a new entity called the Freedom & Security PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission. The PAC was based in Minnesota and its treasurer was named Ruth Ann Michnay, but there was no indication about for whom it was raising money or what its purpose was.
The following month, United Parcel Service held a fundraiser for the new PAC. Contributions from the company, including the cost of the event, came to $2,750. It’s not clear how much more came in at the fundraiser but during its first six months of operations the Freedom & Security PAC brought in roughly $43,000.
So what is the Freedom & Security PAC? It turns out that it is Congressman John Kline’s Leadership PAC–a type of fundraising vehicle used by members of Congress to support other politicians while simultaneously building their own political networks. Hundreds of members of Congress now run Leadership PACs, which are effectively unregulated slush funds to which donors can contribute $5,000 a year, far more than they can give to campaign treasuries.
A few years ago, former GOP Congressman Joel Hefley of Colorado introduced a bill to outlaw leadership PACs, but was unable to enlist a single cosponsor. Most members of Congress publicly disclose their ties to Leadership PACs, but they are not required to do so. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, introduced a bill in January of 2007 that would require such disclosure, but that measure is still pending.
Last year, Roll Call reported that the previously unaffiliated Freedom, Security, Prosperity PAC had been formed by Florida Congressman Connie Mack. It determined this after discovering that the majority of donors to the PAC were executives at Hooters, where Mack had previously worked as a marketing consultant. Furthermore, the PAC’s treasurer, lobbyist Craig Engle, was also the treasurer of Mack’s re-election campaign.
Similar evidence suggested that Kline was the main man behind the Freedom & Security PAC. Its treasurer, Ruth Ann Michnay, handles the books for Kline’s campaign treasury. And UPS appears to be quite fond of Kline, having contributed $15,000 to his campaign during the past three years.
One main source of UPS’s gratitude is the key role Kline played in passage of a 2006 bill that significantly reduced its pension obligations. Kline was one of four cosponsors of the legislation, which he aggressively championed, saying it would help Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines and thousands of its employees who lived in his district. “We are on the verge of completing the pension bill that will provide security and peace of mind for thousands of families across the southern Metro area, tens of thousands of Minnesotans, and tens of millions of Americans,” he said in July of 2006.
It certainly secured peace of mind for Atlanta-based UPS, which retained Federal Policy Group, one of the top lobbying firms in town, to push for the bill to pass. The New York Times identified the company as being among the biggest winners from approval of the bill. The company “has 127,000 truck drivers who participate in a special type of plan jointly run by companies and unions, called multiemployer plans,” the newspaper reported. “The bill will give the trustees of such plans new authority to take remedial action if the plans become dangerously insolvent… They will be required to notify the participants of the crisis, and be allowed to reduce certain benefits to save money.”
Several other donors to Kline’s PAC, including Lockheed Martin and Associated Builders and Contractors, also stood to benefit from Kline’s pension bill.
I called Kline’s spokesman, Troy Young, and he confirmed that Freedom & Security is his boss’s PAC, but Young said that he wasn’t able to say anything more because he worked on congressional affairs and not campaign affairs. I left a message with Kline’s office to ask about the PAC and UPS’s support for the congressman, but have not heard back. (If I do I’ll update this story.) Michnay did not return an email requesting comment.
This story was reported with help from Taimur Khan.