Blumenthal gears up leadership PAC

Washington — With his leadership PAC, Sen. Richard Blumenthal is helping friends and seeking greater influence in the Senate.

Blumenthal, a Democrat, established the Nutmeg PAC (political action committee) last year, but it had very little activity until recently.

According to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission, Blumenthal has stepped up efforts to seek donations for his PAC, raising nearly $75,000 in the first three months of the year.

Leadership PACs were once the sole province of the most senior members of the Senate, who use them to establish influence over more junior colleagues.

But Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report says they are becoming more common, even for freshmen such as Blumenthal.

“The increasing rarity in modern American politics is the United States senator who doesn’t show ambition,” she said.

Few senators will ascend the Senate’s seniority ladder more quickly than Blumenthal, who has been in office for little more than a year.

After a new Connecticut senator is sworn in next January to replace retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, Blumenthal will be transformed from one of the most junior members of the chamber to the state’s senior senator.

After November’s elections there will be a number of new senators who defeat incumbents or win open seats, bumping Blumenthal up in seniority.

Blumenthal has used the Nutmeg PAC to donate $15,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and to a number of fellow Democratic senators. Two of those, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, are fellow members of the Judiciary Committee.

Blumenthal also gave to some Democrats facing tough races this year, including Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Debbie Stabenow of Missouri.

Blumenthal said he’s also held fundraisers for Whitehouse and other Democrats at his home in Greenwich.

“His fundraising signals to his leadership that he can bring in big money,” said Nicole Krassas, professor of political science at Eastern Connecticut State University.

By helping his party, Krassas said Blumenthal is likely positioning himself for better committee jobs or better positions on a committee.

Besides sitting on the Judiciary Committee, Blumenthal serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Health, Education and Labor Committee.

“He’s got connections in the state of Connecticut that can help his fundraising,” Krassas said. “He was better positioned than other freshmen to hit the ground running.”

Blumenthal served five terms as Connecticut’s attorney general and was also a state senator and representative.

Blumenthal’s leadership PAC allows top donors — such as the United Technologies Corp. PAC — to double up on contributions, once to the PAC and again to the campaign.

“It is also a way to separate political activities for others from their own campaign accounts,” Duffy said of leadership PACs.

Blumenthal has also been raising money for himself. He raised about $308,000 for his re-election campaign in the first three months of the year, allowing him to reduce a $500,000 personal loan to his campaign by $250,000.