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Dream-weaver

When Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Tex.) took charge of an independent political fund called American Dream PAC in 1999, he made clear that its mission was "to give significant, direct financial assistance to first-rate minority GOP candidates."

Since then, only $48,750 -- or 8.9 percent -- of the $547,000 the southwest Texas congressman has raised for his political action committee has gone to minority office-seekers while more than $100,000 has been routed to Republican Party organizations or causes, including a GOP redistricting effort in Texas, a legal defense fund for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and Bonilla's reelection campaign. Most of the remainder of the money went to legal fees, fundraisers in Miami and other cities, airline tickets, hotels, catering services, consultants and salaries.

Republican and Democratic members of Congress have used independent "leadership PACs" to spread their influence, and in recent years hundreds have been set up. Such PACs enable lawmakers to multiply contributions from special interests and legally avoid the limits set on personal campaign funds. But Bonilla's comes with a twist: It's one of the few PACs, some experts say, that has not lived up to its clear mission statement.

"The fact that this [American Dream] PAC had a mission statement and that it appeared the funds didn't follow that purpose to a degree raises the question of whether donors may have been misled," said Kent Cooper, co-founder of the campaign watchdog group PoliticalMoneyLine. -- 'Dream' PAC Not Living Up To Goal (washingtonpost.com)