Back-scratch Fever

Republican Alfredo Alves of Fall River, Mass., who is gay, contributed $250 to Rep. Barney Frank’s 1996 campaign, because the Massachusetts Democrat is an “excellent politician” and an outspoken supporter of gay rights. Alves was unhappy, though, when he learned from Mother Jones that Frank gave $7,250 of his campaign money to eight other Democrats — all of whom supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of gay marriage.

Frank says party leaders urged Democrats to share their campaign money with struggling candidates when it looked like the Democrats could regain a House majority. “When the question of control of the House was not an issue,” Frank says, “I used a finer screening process.”

That’s not good enough for Alves. “It’s not fair for a candidate to take money from citizens and give it to other candidates with different views,” he says. “It’s violating the intent of my contribution.”

Single-issue contributors, beware: In the world of campaign finance, candidates share the kitty with other candidates. Last year, $3.7 million passed between congressional candidates. Democrats gave $1.8 million and Republicans $1.9 million — all to members of their own party, but often to members with very different opinions:

Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who introduced a “human life amendment” to ban abortions except to save the mother’s life, took $1,500 from the National Right to Life Committee but gave $7,000 to seven Democrats who opposed the late-term abortion ban (which Clinton vetoed).

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who vociferously opposed the minimum wage hike, received $4,000 from the like-minded National Federation of Independent Business, but gave $5,000 to two Republicans who supported the increase.

Recently retired Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a welfare supporter who told the New York Times in 1995 that Congress was “celebrat[ing] Christmas by trashing poor people,” used $6,500 of his leftover campaign money to support six Democrats, all of whom backed the controversial welfare reform bill. The biggest chunk — $2,000 — went to Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, who succeeded Simon as senator.