by Ken Rankin

Washington - After serving as a political punching bag on Capitol Hill for much of the past year, the accounting profession has put itself in a position to make a significant splash in the 2002 congressional elections.

An exclusive Accounting Today analysis of financial reports filed with the Federal Election Commission revealed that political action committees sponsored by the accounting industry at press time had already raised more than $7.2 million to support candidates in this year’s House elections - a total that nearly matches the $7.6 million war chest that was amassed by these same fundraising groups during the entire 2000 national election cycle.

In addition to these receipts, PACs sponsored by the major accounting firms, the American Institute of CPAs and

the National Society of Accountants entered the 2002 election cycle with more than $1.1 million left over from the 2000 campaign. And an aggressive appeal for last-minute donations before the November elections could leave the accounting industry with a record $10 million to support congressional candidates in this year’s elections.

Even before the first ballot was cast in this year’s primary elections, accounting industry political action committees had already contributed more than $3.3 million to candidates in this year’s congressional races, and had donated hundreds of thousands more to the campaign committees that are operated by the two major national political parties.

Even if the industry’s political fundraisers fail to collect another dollar this year from accounting firm partners and employees, Accounting Today’s analysis found that these PACs would have cash reserves of $2.8 million to spend on House and Senate candidates during the closing weeks of the 2002 campaign.

The success of the profession’s political fund-raising activities is particularly impressive in view of two significant developments that sharply reduced the money that is available for the 2002 campaign: (1) the abrupt disintegration of Arthur Andersen earlier this year; and (2) the sharp drop-off in contributions to AICPA’s once-powerful political action committee (see sidebar).

Andersen’s PAC, which raised over $1 million for candidates in the 2000 congressional elections, all but dried up earlier this year following the firm’s collapse. Although the firm contributed substantially during the primaries, the Andersen PAC entered the post-primary election homestretch with less than $60 on hand.

Meanwhile, the profession’s support for AICPA’s political fundraising branch dropped sharply following the 2000 election when the association’s PAC assembled a campaign war chest of more than $1.3 million.

For this year’s elections, the AICPA’s PAC has raised less than half that amount, and the institute’s contributions to congressional candidates also has fallen significantly from the previous election cycle.

PACs sponsored by individual accounting firms, however, showed enough strength to offset these declines. Here’s how the scorecard sorts out:

 • Deloitte & Touche, sponsor of the accounting industry’s single largest political action committee, has already raised more than $2.1 million for this year’s elections - over $500,000 more than was collected for the entire 2000 election cycle. The PAC has already shelled out nearly $750,000 in contributions to House and Senate candidates and has reported an additional $1.3 million in cash on hand for the final days of the campaign.

 • Ernst & Young’s PAC has raised $1.2 million for the 2002 elections so far - about the same amount collected for the 2000 campaign. The committee made donations totaling nearly $500,000 to 117 House and Senate candidates in this year’s primary elections and still has $284,000 for the post-primary period.

 • KPMG’s PAC, now the accounting profession’s fastest- growing political fundraising organization, assembled nearly $1.6 million for the 2002 elections, up from $847,325 during the 2000 campaign cycle. The PAC has already contributed $730,000 to 211 candidates in this year’s congressional races and has another $476,000 in reserve.

 • PricewaterhouseCoopers’ PAC has had less success in raising funds for this year’s elections. Nevertheless, donations to the PwC PAC exceeded $910,000 (vs. nearly $1.4 million for the 2000 election campaign), and the organization has $312,000 on hand to contribute to candidates during the campaign homestretch.

 • Arthur Andersen’s PAC is now drained of funds, but the firm’s once-powerful political fundraising body did manage to collect more than $708,000 in donations for candidates in the 2002 elections before the firm’s collapse. That money, which included $341,000 in campaign contributions to 156 different House and Senate candidates (plus thousands more to Republican and Democratic campaign committees) is now gone.

 • The National Society of Accountants’ political action committee has raised only $27,352 for the 2002 congressional race ($10,000 less than during the previous election), but thanks to funds left over from prior years, the NSA has more than $150,000 available to support candidates during the final weeks of the campaign.

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