Big-Money Donors Still Giving Early and Often
By Dwight Morris
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, April 21, 1998
If I were a political fund-raiser, it would be hard for me to decide whether to break into a chorus of "We're In the Money" or "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas." However, one thing is certain I would definitely be smiling.
Despite all of the negative press over fund-raising excesses during the 1996 elections, money keeps pouring into federal campaign coffers at a dizzying pace. The 1998 campaign has just gotten rolling, but already 427 companies, labor unions, trade associations and extremely generous individuals each have already pumped more than $100,000 into the war chests of congressional candidates and national party committees.
Corporations Kick In Early
Several industries have wasted little time in getting in on the contribution game for the 1998 campaign season. Given the billions of dollars at stake and the gravity of its current political and legal problems, it is no surprise that Philip Morris leads the way with donations of more than $2 million. Nine months prior to the election, Philip Morris has already contributed more than $1.6 million to Republican candidates and party committees, including nearly $1.3 million in soft money. Hedging its bets, the company also has given Democrats more than $430,000, including nearly $243,000 in soft money.
Though Philip Morris is a charter member of the early $1-million club, it is by no means alone. Others include: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ($1.3 million); the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ($1.3 million); and AT&T ($1.1 million). Another 38 companies, unions, trade associations and individuals have topped the $500,000 mark, and yet another 35 have exceeded $400,000 in contributions.
Dual Contributions: Companies Hedging Their Bets
Many companies follow Philip Morris's pattern of donating heavily to both parties. But most are not nearly as even-handed as the National Rural Electric Coop Association, which has given $228,271 to Republican congressional candidates and party committees and $227,775 to their Democratic counterparts. More than 100 companies 105 to be exact have already given more than $100,000 to both the Republican and Democratic camps and the list of double dippers includes companies from virtually every industry.
- AT&T has contributed $688,088 to Republican candidates and party committees, including nearly $400,000 in soft money. The company has forked over $370,619 to Democrats.
- An expensive strike has not prevented United Parcel Service from donating $733,788 to Republican committees and another $230,810 to Democrats.
- RJR Nabisco has anted up $682,525 for its Republican friends and $195,322 for its Democratic supporters.
- BellSouth Corporation has given $450,087 to the Republican cause and $358,667 to various Democratic candidates and party committees.
- The National Association of Home Builders has donated $795,250 so far, with Republicans and Democrats collecting $510,000 and $285,250, respectively.
- Of the $761,855 total that Lockheed has contributed, Republicans got $492,873 and Democrats got $268,982.
A detailed industry analysis of more than $200 million in soft money and political action committee (PAC) donations shows that banks, insurance companies and other financial service interests have sprinted far ahead of any other industry in terms of political giving. As of April 1, 1998, they had pumped a whopping $30.1 million and counting into the political system. Republican candidates and committees raked in nearly $19 million of that total, including soft money donations of $6.9 million. In the spirit of political brotherhood, these same companies had donated $11.2 to Democratic committees.
The health care industry has also jumped on the contribution wagon early. Ever concerned that the Clinton administration might re-ignite its health care reform effort and that Congress might be more inclined to follow along in an election year, the industry has contributed a total of $15.2 million. Republican candidates and party committees received $9.1 million of that total; Democrats pulled in $6.1 million.
Long distance and local service providers continue to play a high-stakes game even though work on the landmark telecommunications deregulation bill has long since been completed. To insure that their voices will be heard, telecommunications companies have already dumped nearly $7 million into the 1998 campaign. Of that total, Republican committees have collected roughly $4 million, including $2 million in soft money. Their Democratic counterparts have received $3 million, including more than $1.2 million in soft money.
And while defense contractors find themselves in an ever-shrinking universe, they have still managed to pump more than $4.6 million into federal campaigns since January 1, 1997. Republicans garnered roughly $2.6 million of that total.
Putting More Eggs In One Basket: Labor Unions
In contrast to many of its corporate counterparts, organized labor doesn't appear to buy into the philosophy of double-dipping. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has donated more than $1.3 million to federal campaign committees, and less than $18,000 of that total has gone to Republicans. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Democrats has donated $1.3 million, and Democrats have collected all but $37,000 of that total. Overall, organized labor has given a total of $20 million over the past 14 months. Of that, Republican candidates and party committees have taken in just $2.1 million.
The Generosity of Individuals
As one might expect, individual donors are also far more likely to give from their heart or ideology and less likely than corporations to view their political giving as pragmatic. Of the 40 individuals who have given at least $100,000 in soft money to party committees, only two Slimfast's S. Daniel Abraham and American Financial Corporation's Carl H. Lindner have donated soft money to both parties.
Amway Founder Richard M. DeVos Sr. and his wife each wrote a check for $500,000 to the Republican National Committee. Not one dime of the $1,029,750 given by the DeVos's, their children and their associates at Amway has gone to a Democratic candidate or committee. Television evangelist Pat Robertson counts few friends on the Democratic side of the aisle, so his $200,000 soft money gift went only to the Republican cause.
On the Democratic side, Bernard L. Schwartz of Loral Corporation ($366,000), Philadelphia-based education consultant Peter L. Buttenwieser ($285,000) and California financier Walter H. Shorenstein ($200,000) have given no soft money to Republican committees.
But whether the money is given for purely ideological reasons or crass political reasons, one thing is abundantly clear. Fundraising has never been easier, and if that's your business, no one could blame you for humming a few bars of "Put On A Happy Face."
© Copyright 1998 Campaign Study Group
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