John Fee is labeling Rep. Jack F. Quinn Jr. the winner of upstate New York's "PAC Man" title.
The Democratic challenger says the incumbent Republican congressman is "extremely hypocritical" for criticizing the role of political action committees in 1992 while accepting 47 percent of his contributions from PACs in 2000.
Fee charged that Quinn has been influenced by contributions from business-oriented PACs, and said the four-term congressman from Hamburg called PACs a "corrupting influence" while initially campaigning for office.
"It's no wonder voters become cynical of politicians who say one thing to get elected," Fee said, "and fall so quickly under the influence of money once they arrive in Washington."
But Quinn dismissed all of Fee's charges, saying the 47 percent figure will be lowered substantially by the time the election cycle ends. He said that he remains true to his pledge to raise two-thirds of his election money locally, and that PAC money represents only part of a broad network of supporters.
He called his effort to stick close to the two-thirds local money pledge an example of "voluntary campaign finance reform."
"While, yes, we accept PAC money, a close look at our reports will show we have widespread support from different areas," Quinn said. "When you get 900 people at our annual picnic at Brierwood Country Club for $30 each, that shows the support from across parties."
But Fee said he raises the PAC question because Quinn took such a strong stand against them when he first ran for Congress. He also said the contributions have influenced Quinn's actions in Congress, charging the money he takes from big utilities such as National Fuel Gas and Niagara Mohawk prompts him to shy away from leading efforts to lower utility and energy rates for Western New Yorkers.
He leveled the same charge for Quinn's alleged inactivity on high air fares and universal coverage of prescription drugs, linking that to money from the air transport and pharmaceutical industries.
"One only need look at the source of Jack Quinn's money to understand his position on issues," Fee said.
Quinn, however, shot back at that charge, too. He produced the letter he wrote last week to President Clinton, signed by 113 other members of Congress, requesting release of strategic oil reserves -- noting that the president acted soon afterward. The administration also followed his request to release $400 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance funds.
"President Clinton responded exactly as we had hoped he would," Quinn said, claiming his action will help ensure lower energy prices this winter.
Federal Election Commission documents reveal that Quinn does not rank among the top 50 House members in PAC contributions. And Quinn pointed to two votes in favor of a campaign finance reform bill spearheaded by Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, adding that he remains committed to that concept.