political notebook

Joseph Kennedy launches new PAC

Francine Wheeler, whose son died in Newtown, will deliver the weekly presidential address on Saturday.
Jessica Hill/Associated Press
Francine Wheeler, whose son died in Newtown, will deliver the weekly presidential address on Saturday.

WASHINGTON — Representative Joseph Kennedy III, a freshman Democrat from Massachusetts, has launched a leadership political action committee called “4MAPAC,” a signal of his intention to use the Kennedy name to build a political base through fund-raising.

Kennedy registered the PAC with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday. A Kennedy aide said the PAC will allow Kennedy to raise greater amounts of money and contribute to the races of fellow members and others moving forward, particularly critical as Democrats strategize to win back the House in 2014.

Individuals can give up to $5,000 a year to a leadership PAC, whereas individual contributions to a candidate are limited to $2,600 per election.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Representative Joseph Kennedy III at a rally earlier this month.

Leadership PACs were traditionally established by members in party leadership positions or those with such ambitions but have become more common as the amount of money poured into US election campaigns has exploded.

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Money given to leadership PACs can only be spent on other candidates, donated to a party’s congressional campaign committee, or spent on a member’s travels to fund-raisers on behalf of other candidates, said Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at University of North Carolina Charlotte and coauthor of “Congressional Parties, Institutional Ambition, and the Financing of Majority Control.”

With money comes power, and there’s the expectation of a “quid pro quo in the future when it comes to leadership position votes or bill votes,” Heberlig said, speaking about leadership PACs in general.

Kennedy, the grandson of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the son of former US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, and great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, has proven to be a prolific fund-raiser, having taken in $4.2 million in the last election cycle. His campaign had about $300,000 cash on hand as of the end of 2012. First quarter 2013 reports are due Monday.

Kennedy won the seat formerly held by Barney Frank and sits on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.


His staff downplayed the significance of the PAC, a fund-raising arm many other members of Congress have also established. Among the Massachusetts delegation with leadership PACs: James McGovern, Michael Capuano, John Tierney, and Richard Neal.

“Like many of his colleagues, Congressman Kennedy wants to support causes and candidates that he believes in,” said Emily Browne, Kennedy’s spokeswoman.


Tracy Jan

Liberal group being tied to McConnell aides’ recording

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A liberal political fund-raising group in Kentucky is being tied to a secret recording of a campaign meeting held by Senator Mitch McConnell in which his aides disparaged actress Ashley Judd.

The leader of Progress Kentucky and a volunteer were outside of the February campaign meeting and ‘‘never left a public hallway,’’ said attorney Ted Shouse, who is representing the group’s executive director, Shawn Reilly. The attorney said Reilly met with the FBI and is cooperating with the bureau’s investigation. The volunteer was Curtis Morrison.


‘‘One, we’re innocent. Two, we’re at most a witness to Mr. Morrison’s criminal activity,’’ Shouse said.

Shouse did not explicitly say that Morrison made the recording. Morrison has not been charged with any wrongdoing. He has not returned phone calls or e-mail and no one answered the door at his home Friday. The recording was leaked to the liberal magazine Mother Jones and published earlier this week. Mother Jones said the recording came from a confidential source. It posted audio and a transcript of the meeting online.

On the recording, the Senate minority leader and his aides talked about opposition research into potential Democratic challengers, including Judd. Aides discussed Judd’s past bouts with depression and how the campaign might use that against her if she decided to challenge him in the 2014 election. The aides laughed about Judd’s depression, as well as her political positions and religious beliefs.

Judd, a former Kentucky resident now living in Tennessee, announced last month that she wouldn’t seek the Democratic nomination.


Associated Press

Mother of Newtown victim to deliver radio address

WASHINGTON — The White House says the mother of a Newtown shooting victim will deliver the weekly presidential radio and Internet address. President Obama typically gives the talk, focusing on a topic that’s in the news or a policy the White House is pushing.

This week, Obama has asked Francine Wheeler to deliver the address. Wheeler and her husband, David, lost their 6-year-old son Ben in the December schoolhouse shooting in Newtown, Conn.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama believes the voices of Newtown families have been critical to progress on gun control. The families have been in Washington lobbying members of Congress. The Senate cleared its first hurdle for gun control legislation on Thursday and will consider expanded background checks next week.


Associated Press

Obama fund-raising offshoot raises $4.9m in first quarter

WASHINGTON — Organizing for Action, the grass-roots group that grew out of President Obama’s campaign machine, raised just shy of $4.9 million during the first quarter of 2013, according to an e-mail to the group’s supporters.

The group, which began fund-raising in late January, is designed to help support Obama’s governing agenda by tapping into his list of campaign supporters. It has so far organized events and bought online ads about gun control and immigration issues.

But the fund-raising totals suggest that the organization may struggle to raise the kind of resources that Obama was able to rely on during his two presidential campaigns, when Obama for America raised hundreds of millions of dollars.


New York Times