With only weeks to go before next month’s game-changing midterm congressional elections, the accounting profession is in position to make record-breaking contributions to the campaigns of key House and Senate candidates.

Since the 2008 Presidential election, political fundraisers for the profession have assembled a war chest of more than $9 million to support their allies on Capitol Hill, and there’s every indication that the industry is willing to spend it on the 2010 elections.

An Accounting Today analysis of records on file at the Federal Election Commission found that as of the beginning of this month, political action committee fundraising groups formed by accounting firms and their associations had already donated more than $5 million to House and Senate candidates, and had given hundreds of thousands of dollars more to political parties and other campaign support groups.

That leaves accounting industry PACs poised to top the record $5.5 million they contributed to congressional candidates during the 2008 election cycle.

Indeed, with a month to go before the November elections, PACs sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs and several of its major accounting firm members still had more than $3 million on hand for last-minute donations to this year’s House and Senate candidates.

Historically, accounting industry PACs have earmarked the overwhelming majority of their campaign contributions to Republican candidates — often donating $2 to GOP hopefuls for every $1 given to Democrats. During the 2006 campaign, for example, nearly 70 percent of the funds channeled to congressional candidates by the profession’s political fundraisers went to Republicans.

But the political winds shifted in the last election. After Democrats won control of Congress in 2006, political fundraisers for the accounting profession began hedging their bets with a more balanced contribution strategy.

During the 2008 election cycle, GOP candidates running for House and Senate seats pulled in only 58 percent of the dollar contributions from the accounting profession, and industry PAC men paid out hefty donations to Democrats on key congressional committees and in top leadership posts.

Although the political tide is turning against Democrats this year, the industry PACs tracked by Accounting Today are showing no signs of switching back to the previous practice of providing overwhelming support to the GOP.

According to the latest filings received by the Federal Election Commission, PACs sponsored by the AICPA, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Grant Thornton, and the National Society of Accountants are tilting even more toward Democrats than they did two years ago.

Of the just over $5 million that these organizations donated to federal candidates through the beginning of October, nearly $2.3 million — 44 percent — went to Democrats.

In Senate races GOP candidates fared somewhat better, pulling in almost two-thirds of the $1 million that accounting PACs contributed to campaigns in the upper chamber.

But in House contests, where the industry’s political fundraisers channeled more than $4 million in donations, Republicans held a much slimmer edge: 53 percent to 47 percent.
As in past campaign, most of the PAC money shelled out by the accounting profession was earmarked toward incumbents. The few newcomers supported by these fundraising groups were running for “open” House or Senate seats vacated by incumbents who had retired, died, or been defeated in the primaries.

Here’s how the accounting profession’s political action committee fundraising organization shape up with two weeks to go before the 2010 elections:

• AICPA – The institute’s PAC spent over $1 million to influence this year’s political races and was just about tapped out at the start of October. Most of the AICPA’s contributions went directly to individual House and Senate candidates (nearly $580,000), with the rest given to other PACs and political party-related fundraising organizations. Republican candidates were on the receiving end of 54 percent of the Institute’s donations.

• Deloitte & Touche – Traditionally the industry’s largest and most active PAC, D&T’s organization has paid out more than $1.3 million to the 2010 crop of congressional candidates. Republicans pulled in 56 percent of this money. The latest reports on file with the FEC indicate that Deloite’s PAC men still had another $1.3 million in reserve to support House and Senate hopefuls during the final weeks of the campaign.

• Ernst & Young – The E&Y PAC contributed more than $670,000 to federal candidates in the 2010 elections, a total that’s down sharply from the almost $1 million paid out to House and Senate hopefuls during the 2006 midterm elections. In early October, however, E&Y’s PAC still had more than $600,000 in reserve that is available for last-minute donations in key races. In this year’s election cycle, the Ernst & Young PAC favored Republicans over Democrats 56 percent to 43 percent.

• PricewaterhouseCoopers – PwC’s political fundraising arm collected an industry-high $2.5 million for candidates in this year’s congressional elections, with almost all of these funds coming from CPAs at the firm and other individual donors who each contributed at least $200 to the fund. Almost $1.4 million was paid out to House and Senate candidates by early this month, with Republicans garnering 53 percent of the money.

• KPMG – This PAC raised nearly $1.7 million for the 2010 elections, and has contributed over $900,000 of that to House and Senate candidates. Republicans received 55 percent of that total, but the latest filings show KPMG with another $342,000 in reserve for possible eleventh-hour donations.

• Grant Thornton – GT’s PAC has contributed $125,000 to federal candidates, with 56 percent going to Republicans. At last check, the fund had almost $150,000 more on hand and available for last-minute support to candidates.

• National Society of Accountants – The society’s small PAC has donated $13,500 to House candidates — all of it going to Democrats. The Senate Finance Committee’s ranking Republican, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, received $1,000 — the only Senate contribution made by NSA. In its last filing with the FEC, the society reported that more than $175,000 remains in reserve in the PAC’s war chest.

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