A Sept. 13 Washington Business article on presidential campaign contributions by local corporations incorrectly reported the location of Regal Domestics and the name of its owner. The owner's name is Barbara Goldberg Goldman, not Barbara Goldberg-Goodman, and her business is based in Rockville, not Chevy Chase. The story also incorrectly identified Christopher Putala as a lobbyist for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. Putala has left that position and is now principal of PutalaStrategies, a D.C. lobbying firm representing telecommunications and technology industry clients. (Published 9/15/2004)
During the last presidential election, Smithfield Foods Inc., the Smithfield, Va.-based pork and beef producer, gave more than $300,000 to presidential candidates and national political committees, making it one of the leading political donors among Washington area companies.
Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic presidential nominee, has come out in favor of banning meat packers from owning livestock, a proposal that would directly interfere with Smithfield's operations. Yet this year Smithfield employees and its political action committee, aptly named HAMPAC, have given a total of only $8,670 to the presidential candidates and national party committees.
Smithfield is just one of many Washington area companies that are putting less money into the presidential contest than they did four years ago.
The major reason they give for the drop-off in contributions is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which bans unregulated soft money contributions to federal candidates and the national parties. There are routes that companies can use to get around those regulations, such as donations to "527" independent advocacy groups or to the host committees of the national party conventions. But many local companies that gave soft money in the past are choosing not to make contributions to those groups.
"We have cut back to comply with the law. Our political action committee has become more active because our employees are more aware and involved. We do not give to 527s because that would violate the spirit of campaign finance," said Jerry Hostetter, a Smithfield spokesman.
Overall, local businesses and their employees gave 45 percent less to presidential hopefuls and the national parties than they did in the 2000 election, according to an analysis of contributions from executives and employees of Washington area corporations and law firms by Dwight L. Morris and Associates. The nonpartisan campaign finance research firm performed the analysis at request of The Washington Post.
Law and lobbying firms, by contrast, are giving more. They are now the top sources of presidential campaign cash among local businesses, according to the analysis.
"Soft money is gone. Some of it is being replaced with hard money under higher contribution limits. Some of it is just disappearing from the system," said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog group.
During this campaign cycle, Washington area businesses gave more money to Democrats than Republicans, the research showed. Four years ago, local business gave more to Republicans than Democrats.
Dwight L. Morris and Associates analyzed contributions made in the 2004 and 2000 election cycles to presidential candidates and the Republican and Democratic national committees by the employees, their non-working spouses and children, and political action committees of the 125 top public companies, the 15 top private local companies, the 10 top local financial institutions, and the area's top 20 law firms.
Many of the companies continue to support congressional, state and local candidates. Contributions to congressional and state candidates and committees were not included in this analysis.
Freddie Mac, a government-chartered mortgage financier, is one of the large donors to the 2000 presidential election that is giving less this year. Four years ago, Freddie Mac and its employees gave $708,450 to White House hopefuls and the national party committees. This year, Freddie Mac employees have given $25,518 during a period when the McLean company is facing public scrutiny over accounting problems and a government investigation of Freddie Mac's former chief lobbyist for campaign finance irregularities.
Campaign finance reform changed the way we give, said Shawn Flaherty, a Freddie Mac spokeswoman. "We don't have the same tools."
Over at Fannie Mae, officials set out a new policy toward political contributions soon after the campaign finance reform act passed. "What we decided is the spirit of the law pointed to individual contributions and PACs to participate in the process," said Brian Faith, a Fannie Mae spokesman. The new policy also ruled out giving to 527 committees, nonprofit organizations that participate in political activities.
Other companies have adopted similar bans on 527s. Corporations have practical reasons for being wary of giving to 527s, Noble said. "Their executives were giving to candidates and their parties because that's direct giving. They get direct credit. When they put it in 527s, some businesses don't see the same return," Noble said.
Lockheed Martin Corp., the Bethesda-based defense contractor, is a case in point. "We made a decision that we weren't going to contribute to federal 527s," said Stephen E. Chaudet, Lockheed's vice president of state and local government affairs and the Lockheed Martin Employees Political Action Committee. "We like to give directly to members who share our concerns."
Lockheed Martin has contributed $80,000 to the Republican Governors Association and $20,000 to the Democratic Governors' Association, both of which are 527 organizations. Chaudet said Lockheed's contributions to both groups, while 527s, are in line with the company's policy of "assisting organizations where we have a strong constituent interest. . . . We have operations in multiple states."
Unlike groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth or MoveOn, the governors' associations focus on state-level races and they act "more like party committees than issue groups," Noble said.
The decision to only assist organizations where Lockheed has a strong constituent interest influenced its decision not to contribute money to the party conventions this year, as it had during the 2000 election. The previous contributions to the organizing committees were initiated by executives of Lockheed Martin IMS, a division of Lockheed that contracted with state and local governments, Chaudet said. Lockheed sold that division in 2001.
"They did some work at state and local levels, and the host committees would ask them to give them support money. . . . Those relationships aren't there anymore," Chaudet said.
Nextel Communications Inc. of Reston is one of the few companies on The Post's list bucking the trend toward smaller contributions. Four years ago, the nation's sixth-largest wireless phone service provider "played a nominal role in the election," said Tim O'Regan, a Nextel spokesman. In 2000, Nextel and its employees contributed $22,600 to presidential candidates, the RNC and the DNC.
Since then, Nextel has been lobbying Congress over airwave rights. This past summer, Nextel was the official wireless provider for both party conventions, making a $500,000 in-kind contribution of handsets and BlackBerrys to the organizing committees of both national party conventions. After the conventions, the equipment was returned to Nextel, O'Regan said. Nextel also gave $11,290 to the Republican Governors Association and $7,500 to the Democratic Governors' Association.
Nextel, however, is an exception. For the most part, local companies and their employees gave less and lobbying firms supplanted them as the top source of presidential campaign cash among local businesses.
This election cycle, 14 of the top 20 donors in 2004 are law firms. Employees of law firms gave a combined total of $2.7 million to presidential candidates and the Republican and Democratic parties, compared with a combined total of $2.1 million during the 2000 election cycle.
The growth in political contributions from lobbyists partly reflects the increase in individual campaign limits under the campaign finance reform act, Noble said. Individuals can now give $2,000 to federal candidates -- twice as much as they could before -- and $25,000 to national party committees per year. Before, they could contribute up to $20,000.
Defense contractors and their employees are the next largest group of donors on The Post list, contributing $354,798.
Lockheed Martin employees, who contributed a total of $222,793, gave overwhelmingly to Republican presidential candidates and committees. Chaudet said the political leanings of Lockheed employees reflect in part the fact that much of Lockheed's workforce is spread across Republican-leaningstates. "We're in southern California, the south and up the east coast. Think of what's happened in the last 15 years. The demographics have shifted. There are not too many southern states that are Democratic," Chaudet said.
General Dynamics Corp. employees gave largely to Republican candidates and the RNC, too. Going against the tide was chief executive Nicholas D. Chabraja, who cut a $25,000 check to the DNC. (He also made a $10,000 contribution to the National Republican Congressional Committee.) A company spokesman declined to comment on the contribution.
Defense spending is not likely to shift dramatically under a Democratic administration, but most in the industry strongly back Bush's willingness to fund homeland security and military initiatives, said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington-based government contractors association. Contractors also support the current administration's emphasis on modernizing government by hiring private companies to do work formerly performed by federal employees.
"I think there is some real concern about some of the rhetoric that we see coming out of the Kerry campaign," Soloway added. Kerry has said he is against competitive sourcing, a program that asks government workers to compete with private-sector employees for their jobs. Also, Kerry said one way he would cut the deficit is by eliminating up to 100,000 federal contractors.
Local financial services companies and their employees are the third most generous business donors on The Post list, giving more than $299,758. Among the largest contributors: Fannie Mae, Sallie Mae and Capital One Financial Corp. Capital One also made a $25,000 contribution to the New Democrat Network, a 527 organization that supports Democratic candidates.
Local lobbyists have been more active fundraisers than local chief executives. At least 49 of the 77 Washington area Bush "Pioneers" -- donors who raise at least $100,000 -- are lobbyists. They include Lanny Griffith, chief executive of Barbour, Griffith and Rodgers, Karen Knutson, a former energy policy aide to Vice President Cheney, and Aubrey A. Rothrock III, a Patton Boggs partner who has represented companies such as Mars Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
K Street has not forgotten Kerry, who is one of the Senate's top recipients of lobbyist contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. At least 15 of the 31 Washington area Kerry "Vice Chairs" -- people who have raised $100,000 -- are lobbyists. Among them are Christopher Putala, lobbyist for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, former White House special counsel Lanny Davis, and Ivan Schlager of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, the No. 1 firm on The Post list, who represents Verizon and News Corp.
Real estate developers are collecting cash for Bush and Kerry, too. Dwight C. Schar, chief executive of NVR Inc., the McLean-based homebuilder, is a Bush Pioneer. This election cycle, Schar and his wife have given $105,000 to Bush and the RNC. Schar declined to comment for this article.
Among the developers raising money for Kerry are Herbert S. Miller, chairman of Western Development Corp., who raised $100,000, and Morton Funger, partner of Ralmor Corp., who raised $50,000.
Finally, local automobile moguls are split between the two major party contenders. Robert M. Rosenthal, chairman of the Rosenthal Automotive Organization, and Mandell J. Ourisman, chairman of Ourisman Automotive Enterprises, are both Bush donors.
On the Democratic side, Donald S. Beyer Jr., owner of Don Beyer Automotive Group and former Virginia lieutenant governor and Democratic candidate, started out the 2004 campaign as Howard Dean's campaign treasurer. After Dean dropped out, Beyer devoted his services to Kerry and has raised more than $100,000.
Joining veteran moneymen such as Miller and Beyer are newcomers to presidential fundraising such as Barbara Goldberg-Goodman. Goldberg-Goodman is president of Regal Domestics, a Chevy Chase-based domestic staffing company. She is a former staffer at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development who is active in Montgomery County on affordable housing issues. So far, she has raised at least $50,000 for Kerry. She declined to comment for this story.
Another rookie is Gary Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and U.S. Treasury official who is now the treasurer of the Maryland Democratic Party. Gensler said he began political fundraising two years ago for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). In June, Van Hollen, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) hosted a fundraiser at Gensler's home featuring Teresa Heinz Kerry that raised more than $700,000 for Kerry, according to Gensler.
"People are fired up in a way that I think reflects this divided nation," Gensler said . "People look at donations and ask, 'Does it matter? Can their donation make a difference?' And the answer is, 'Absolutely, yes.' "
Staff writer Ellen McCarthy contributed to this report.