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Withering Democracy

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  • Sheila Goldner
    Wed, 27 Sep Robert Weissman Withering Democracy By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2000
      Wed, 27 Sep
      Robert Weissman <rob@...>

      Withering Democracy
      By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

      >For all but the ideologically committed or deluded few who believe
      >corporations and their executives make contributions out of a sense of
      >civic obligation, there can be little doubt that the U.S. campaign finance
      >system is fundamentally corrupt, and corrupting.
      >But it would be a mistake to make this observation and reach the obvious
      >conclusion that the current system of private contributions must be
      >replaced by a system of public financing, and then fail to dig further.
      >Because the available campaign finance data provides a host of insights
      >into the pattern of corporate investment in politics and politicians in
      >the United States.
      >Superb new data collections from the invaluable Center for Responsive
      >Politics (CRP, data at www.opensecrets.org) detail the nature of major
      >industrial sector contribution patterns over the last decade, compiling
      >contributions from individuals affiliated with industries, political
      >action committee (PAC) contributions and soft money donations (made to the
      >political parties). Here is some of what their data shows:
      >1. Every single major industrial sector except for communications/
      >electronics now favors the Republican Party. The CRP industry groupings
      >are: agribusiness; communications/electronics; construction; defense;
      >energy/natural resources; finance/insurance/real estate; health;
      >transportation; and a catch-all miscellaneous business category, including
      >liquor, casinos, chemicals, food, advertising, steel production and
      >The communications/electronics contributions lean slightly toward the
      >Democrats, powered by contributions from Hollywood. The TV/movie/music
      >sector, constituting about a third of overall donations from the
      >communications/electronics sector, gives more than 60 percent of its
      >contributions to Democrats.
      >2. Despite the overall tilt to the Republicans, every major industrial
      >sector contributes large sums to the Democrats as well. Agribusiness and
      >energy/natural resources, two of the most pro-Republican industries, gave
      >the Democrats $69 million and $64 million, respectively, in the election
      >cycles from 1990 to 2000.
      >3. The only reliably Democratic supporters are lawyers/lobbyists
      >(reflecting trial lawyer contributions) and labor. Lawyers/lobbyists
      >directed nearly 70 percent of their contributions to the Democrats. Labor
      >sent more than 90 percent of its monies to the Dems.
      >4. The major shift to the Republicans followed the 1994 elections, in
      >which the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress. Corporate
      >contributions generally flow to the majority party, both because it has
      >more incumbents and the companies seek to win influence with those in
      >office, and because the majority party controls the legislative agenda.
      >5. Of the major industrial sectors, agribusiness, construction,
      >energy/natural resources and transportation, plus the miscellaneous
      >business category, appear firmly entrenched in the Republican camp. They
      >favored the Republicans even when they were the minority in Congress, and
      >now favor them by large margins. The health industries and
      >finance/insurance/real estate both give about 60 percent of their
      >contributions to the Republicans, while defense gives an even higher share
      >to the GOP, but each of these sectors split their contributions relatively
      >evenly when the Democrats controlled Congress. Communications/electronics
      >companies now divide their contributions evenly, and favored the Democrats
      >in the elections through 1994.
      >6. The broad sector totals may in some cases obscure differences within
      >industry groupings. For example, in the energy sector, while oil and gas
      >have always been staunchly Republican, now giving more than three-fourths
      >of their contributions to the Party of Lincoln, electric utilities have
      >tilted more Democratic. Although about two-thirds of utility money now
      >goes to the Republicans, utilities favored the Democrats when they
      >controlled Congress. In the finance sector, real estate firms and
      >securities/investment banks have shaded more Democratic than insurance
      >companies and commercial banks. The former now give about 43 percent of
      >their monies to the Democrats, while insurance companies and commercial
      >banks give only one-third to the minority party. In general, however,
      >industrial sectors appear to act in concert.
      >7. Specific sector contributions spike at certain periods, correlating
      >with Congressional consideration of major legislation of interest to
      >particular industries. Agribusiness contributions rise prior to adoption
      >of the periodic Farm Bill. Communications/electronic contributions nearly
      >doubled from 1994 to 1996, prior to adoption of the 1996
      >Telecommunications Act. Contributions from the finance sector skyrocketed
      >as the financial deregulation bill was wending its way through Congress.
      >8. Over the past decade, the overarching trend in corporate campaign
      >contributions has been rapidly upward. Corporate contributions in the 2000
      >elections are already about 50 percent higher than in the 1992
      >presidential election year -- and there's still plenty of time to go this
      >9. Labor is no counterbalance for the Democrats. Although unions direct
      >more than 90 percent of their contributions to the Democrats, corporate
      >contributors outspend them by more than 11 times.
      >10. George W. Bush is massively outdistancing Al Gore in corporate
      >contributions. Bush leads in every corporate sector. In the most
      >competitive sector, communications/electronics, Bush's contributions are
      >25 percent higher than Gore's. In the agribusiness, energy/natural
      >resources and transportation sectors, Bush is pulling in nearly 10 times
      >more money than Gore.
      >This is no way to run a democracy. When both parties' financial lifeline
      >are connected to corporate interests, the democratic credentials of the
      >political system are called into question. The system formally remains one
      >of one person, one vote, but is it the people or the corporations who
      >Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
      >Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
      >Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The
      >Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common
      >Courage Press, 1999).
      >(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
      >Focus on the Corporation is a weekly column written by Russell Mokhiber
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