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Some House freshmen getting comfortable with Washington ways

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Photo - House Speaker John Boehner has endured more than a few headaches from members of the 2010 freshman class, but signs are growing some of the first-termers are adopting Washington's ways. (AP Photo)
House Speaker John Boehner has endured more than a few headaches from members of the 2010 freshman class, but signs are growing some of the first-termers are adopting Washington's ways. (AP Photo)

A massive voter rebellion against Washington business-as-usual in 2010 produced a freshman class in the House that included 80 Republicans and nine Democrats, many of whom were elected with support of local Tea Party groups on explicit promises to upset the political applecart in the nation's capitol.

And more often than not, most members of the House Freshman class of 2010 have been a thorn in the side of House leaders, especially for House Speaker John Bohner. As a result, on multiple occasions on major issues like the federal budget, Boehnher has been forced to depend upon finding enough Democrats to join with establishment GOPers to pass spending measures.

Even so, a new Sunlight Foundation analysis finds extensive evidence that more than a few of the 2010 freshmen are giving in to Washington's ways on the campaign finance and lobbying fronts.

What they found
* Special interests have doubled their giving to House freshmen over 2010.
* Several leadership PACs are giving big bucks to freshmen seeking re-election.
* Super-PACs, labor groups and others are also giving big bucks to them.

According to Sunlight reporter Anupama Narayanswamy, "it wasn't long after they arrived in Washington in January 2011 before some of the newbies began mimicking their seniors in hitting the party trail, holding fundraisers to cover their 2010 campaign debts."

As a result, Naranswamy said, "these corporate special interests and businesses registered to lobby have doubled down on their campaign donation to the first-year House members."

Among the most significant findings produced so far by Sunlight's 16-member reporting team led by editorial director Bill Allison are these:

* In 2010, political action committees of businesses that lobby gave the then-challengers a total of $14.89 million. Since then, they have upped their contributions to the first terms by nearly 100 percent, donating more than $26.66 million so far this cycle.

* Leadership PACs--political action committees associated with high-ranking present or former members of Congress--have propped up some of the candidates to the tune of $9.59 million.

* Outside groups--super PACs, nonprofits, labor groups and party committees--have spent $1.78 million so far on races where these 89 incumbents are running.

* In 2010, the members of the House freshman class collected $144 million in campaign donations. So far this cycle, they've raked in $120 million, more than twice what they had raised at this point in 2010 ($54.6 million) and are heading into the most lucrative months of the fundraising calendar.

In addition to looking at their performance as a group, the Sunlight project is producing in-depth analyses of each of the 89 members of the 2010 freshman class. Thus far, analyses have been published on Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-KS, Rep. David Schweikert, R-AZ, and Rep. Cory Gardiner, R-CO.

For more of the Sunlight report, go here.

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