Financial, Defense Lead Area Industries in Political Giving
Monday, September 15, 2008
Executives and employees of financial services firms and defense contractors have given the most money to the two major political parties and their presidential nominees, a review of donations by some of the region's largest companies and nonprofit organizations shows.
The 10 firms whose employees gave the most money favored the Republican Party and its standard bearer, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), over the Democratic Party and its White House pick, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
However, the data also show that management's preferences can differ from those of rank-and-file workers. For example, Daniel Mudd, the departed chief executive of mortgage giant Fannie Mae, was among a handful of employees who together donated a total of $7,550 to McCain, while other Fannie workers gave overwhelmingly to Obama with a total of $83,199.
The data provide only a snapshot of campaign giving in the Washington area. The Washington Post hired the Center for Responsive Politics, the nonpartisan research group that runs campaign-finance Web site OpenSecrets.org, to pull together donation information from 100 large local companies and nonprofits, as well as their employees and the employees' non-working family members. The center captured donations of at least $200 from individuals and from corporate political action committees. The data show giving to the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees as of Aug. 20 and giving to the Republican and Democratic national committees as of June 30. Totals probably have changed since those dates.
Contributions to presidential campaigns tend to reflect the ideological leanings of the donors, while contributions to congressional races or by corporate political action committees are more likely to be targeted at members of Congress with oversight of a company or its industry, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.
District-based Fannie Mae's PAC gave primarily to House and Senate candidates in the 2008 election cycle. The PAC handed out $652,400 to federal candidates, CRP data show, some of it as Congress was working on a rescue package for Fannie and Freddie. The government has since decided to place the companies in conservatorship.
The PAC for Fannie Mae's rival, McLean-based Freddie Mac, spread around less money than Fannie's, handing out about $202,997 to federal candidates this election cycle, CRP data show. In the presidential campaign, Freddie employees have given a total of $28,450 to the nominees, with twice as many contributions going to Obama than to McCain. Fannie employs about 5,700 people; Freddie employs about 5,385. Fannie spokesman Brian Faith and Freddie spokeswoman Sharon McHale declined to comment for this story.
In a few cases, a small number of top executives accounted for most of the donations from a company. Dwight Schar, chairman of Reston home builder NVR, was the company's sole employee to contribute to the two parties and their presidential candidates, according to the CRP data. A lifelong Republican, Schar and his wife, Martha Schar, each gave the maximum allowed to the RNC, for a total of $114,000. Schar has raised more than $500,000 for McCain, the candidate's campaign Web site says. Schar declined to comment on his political giving.
Marriott International chief executive Bill Marriott is also a major Republican donor, though he has on occasion raised money for Democratic candidates. In the GOP presidential primary, he backed Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Marriott board member. Marriott is now a top McCain fundraiser and is listed on McCain's campaign Web site as having raised $100,000 to $250,000. Marriott and members of his family have personally given a total of $60,700 to the GOP and McCain. Thomas Marder, a spokesman for the Bethesda-based company, declined to comment on the contributions.
On the other side of the political aisle is John Delaney, chief executive of the Chevy Chase financial services firm CapitalSource. Delaney gave $57,000 to the Democratic National Committee's fundraising arm, accounting for 75 percent of the total contributions by CapitalSource employees. Delaney was a Maryland state delegate to the Democratic Convention and hosted a fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign at his home last year. CapitalSource spokesman Michael Weiss declined to comment for this story.
Some executives hedged their bets. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis gave the maximum $2,300 contribution to both McCain and Obama.
"This race is a dead heat," Leonsis said. "I just felt it was in our best interest from a company standpoint to support both. We have Republicans who are fans. We have Democrats who are fans."