Corporate contributions have surged for new Republican leaders in House

Meet the leaders of House committees under the new GOP majority.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 22, 2011; 12:00 AM

The new Republican leaders in the House have received millions of dollars in contributions from banks, health insurers and other major business interests, which are pressing for broad reversals of Democratic policies that affect corporations, according to disclosure records and interviews.

Much of that money flowed to the GOP chairmen overseeing banking, energy and other key committees - leaders who will play a central role in setting the House agenda over the next two years.

The impetus behind such largess is simple: Many companies and industry groups hope House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and other Republicans will succeed in rolling back Democratic policies they find objectionable, including environmental and Wall Street regulations.

GOP lawmakers took their first step in that direction Wednesday by voting to repeal President Obama's health-care overhaul law. Major health-care firms and their employees gave Republican leaders at least $5 million over the past two years, including well over $2 million to Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data.

Major corporations and other interest groups often favor whichever party is in charge, as they did in 2006 when Democrats took control of Congress. But the surge in donations to Republicans underscores the extent of the business community's unhappiness with Democrats and Obama, who could face serious difficulties raising corporate donations for his 2012 reelection bid. The president has made efforts in recent months to improve relations with the business community, including hiring William M. Daley, a former commerce secretary and J.P. Morgan Chase executive, as his chief of staff.

Cantor received at least $5.6 million from corporate-linked donors during the 2010 midterm campaign, including $2.4 million from companies and employees in the finance, insurance and real estate industries, according to the Post analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The total marks a 40 percent increase from 2008 and puts Cantor well ahead of most of his House GOP colleagues. At his first news briefing this month, Cantor signaled that business issues will be a priority for the GOP majority, including attempts to reverse key Obama initiatives.

"We are going to be placing our marker down and insisting that our committees go about identifying and overseeing what the administration's regulatory agencies have been doing, in terms of their job-killing agenda," he said.

Banking, insurance and investment firms gave millions more to lawmakers heading finance-related committees, including Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.), Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (Ky.). Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (Ala.) - who will oversee attempts to undo Obama's Wall Street regulatory changes - received more than $1.2 million from the banking sector, accounting for the vast majority of his total contributions in 2010, records show.

The pattern is similar for other key House panels. Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, received more than $400,000 from the energy and mining industries, a leap of nearly 50 percent from 2008. Major contributors included employees of DTE Energy, CMS Energy and the Edison Electric Institute, which represents utilities, records show.

Upton, whose office did not respond to a request for comment, has vowed to roll back new greenhouse gas regulations that oil, natural gas and coal firms oppose.

The farming and agribusiness lobby gave Rep. Frank D. Lucas (Okla.), chairman of the Agriculture Committee, more than $600,000 in donations, according to the analysis. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (Calif.), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, received nearly half his contributions from the defense sector, which is gearing up to oppose budget cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

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