- Wed, 27 Sep
Robert Weissman <rob@...>
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
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