Political fundraisers for the accounting profession have been hedging their bets during this year's election campaigns, earmarking significant support for powerful House and Senate Democrats while channeling even more money to Republicans faced with tough re-election battles next month.As the 2008 congressional elections entered the homestretch, the accounting profession's seven accounting political action committee fundraising organizations had assembled a combined war chest of more than $8.8 million to support congressional candidates considered friendly - or at least important - to the profession.

An exclusive Accounting Today analysis of Federal Election Commission records found that the political fundraising groups sponsored by the Big Four accounting firms and other professional organizations had already contributed nearly $3.4 million to House and Senate candidates in the 2008 elections.

But in addition to those donations, PACs organized by Big Four firms Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte & Touche and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Grant Thornton, the National Society of Accountants and the American Institute of CPAs collectively contributed millions more to outside fundraising outfits, ranging from both the Republican and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees, to a variety of independent political funds on the right as well as the left.

While the majority of Big Accounting's PAC money was targeted at helping GOP candidates, the tilt toward Republicans was not nearly as pronounced as in years past.

Before the Democrats seized control of both houses of Congress in 2006, the accounting profession's political money men channeled at least two out of three campaign dollars to Republicans. Earlier this year, however, Accounting Today reported that while the GOP continued to collect the majority of the industry's PAC donations during 2007, their edge had narrowed to a 59 percent to 41 percent margin.

The new analysis found Democrats making even further inroads, capturing 42 percent of the accounting profession's campaign dollars, versus 58 percent for Republican candidates.

The PAC totals analyzed by Accounting Today represent the latest available figures from the FEC, but do not include receipts or disbursements made during the final three months of the campaign. And with less than two weeks remaining before the election, accounting industry PACs were in position to make some significant moves.

Indeed, the seven PACs tracked by Accounting Today had more than $4 million on hand and available to contribute to candidates during the campaign's homestretch. But if past performance is any indication, not many of those PAC dollars will go to challengers seeking to unseat incumbent House and Senate members.

During the past four congressional elections, over 90 percent of the accounting profession's campaign funds were donated to sitting congressmen and senators seeking re-election. The remaining funds were likely to go to candidates for open congressional seats with no incumbents in the race.

Here's the latest rundown on accounting industry PAC activity for the 2008 elections:

* The AICPA's PAC raised $666,770 for this year's political campaigns and had another $426,172 left over from the 2007 elections. The association's PAC-men dished out $546,191 to individual candidates so far in the current election cycle, with 57 percent of that money going to Republicans. The AICPA has over $132,000 remaining in the kitty for last-minute campaign contributions.

* Deloitte & Touche's PAC, the nation's 36th largest political fundraising group and rated among the most influential campaign organizations, collected $2.3 million for the 2008 campaign and paid out nearly $1 million more in donations to federal candidates in this year's election. The Deloitte PAC favors Republicans over Democrats 59-41, and still had more than $1.8 million on hand to contribute during the closing weeks of this year's campaign.

* Ernst & Young's PAC assembled a war chest of more than $1.5 million for the upcoming elections, and has already contributed $530,000 to candidates. GOP candidates snagged 55 percent of E&Y's donations, and the PAC had over $416,000 available to spread around during the campaign homestretch.

* KPMG's PAC collected $1.8 million for this fall's elections, and has so far paid out more than $600,000 to candidates. Republicans received 63 percent of KPMG's PAC money, but the committee has more than $600,000 on hand to contribute during the final weeks of the 2008 campaign.

* PricewaterhouseCoopers' PAC, rated as a "heavy hitter" by analysts at the Center for Responsible Politics, raised $2.3 million to influence this year's elections. So far it has made roughly $800,000 in contributions to candidates, with 58 percent of the money going to GOP hopefuls. PwC still had more than $946,000 in reserve for last-minute contributions.

* Grant Thornton's PAC raised more than $202,000 for federal candidates since the 2006 elections, and has made $58,500 in donations to congressional office-seekers. Only 33 percent of the PAC's money has gone to Democrats, but the committee still has nearly $140,000 on hand to donate during the closing weeks.

* The National Society of Accountant's PAC only collected $26,309 for the current election cycle, and has contributed just $9,000 to congressional candidates so far - all of them Republicans. However, at press time, the PAC was sitting on a war chest of nearly $150,000.

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