In the United States Congress, money, rather than reason of equity, usually determines policy. The money may be in the form of a legal campaign contributions or speaking honorarium. It may be the promise of a future contribution. It may be an investment held by a congressman or a member of his family. Or it may be an illicit payment, as with the six members of Congress who may be charged with accepting case bribes in Abscam.
The relationship between special interests and congressmen can be psychological as well as economic. Campaign money and speaking fees are sometimes just symobols of an incestuous relationship. After a while, a congressman will convince himself to see the world through the eyes of the industry he has authorization over. He doesn't even know he has been bought with flattery, unequal social access, party invitations, improved status, a few free trips in a corporate jet and a few thousand dollars in pocket money from speaking fees.
One way or another, special interests have managed to dominate Congress because Congress decides who gets subsidies, who gets price supports, who gets regulated, who gets funded, who gets taxed, who gets tax exemptions, deferrals, credits and deductions -- in short, who gets rich.
Understandably, their giving has proliferated. In 1978, 1,500 special interest "political action committees" (PACs) funneled $54 million into House and Senate campaigns, double the 1976 total. Of the 1,500 PAC's, nearly half were created by corporations, a dramatic increase from 1974, when only 89 corporate PAC's existed.
Oil interests' campaign contributions have been reported at more than $3.5 million to incumbent members of the House and Senate. Oil industry PAC's and oil company directors, executives and lawyers contributed $1.3 million to 34 senators elected in 1978 -- an average of $40,694 each. At the same time, oil industry PACs contributed $1.1 million to House candidates, 267 of whom were elected to the incumbent Congress.
The oil industry has gotten what it wanted from Congress, including decontrol of domestic crude oil prices, decontrol of home heating fuel, the phase-out of the windfall profits tax after 10 years and dozens of obscure tax exemptions.
In 1978, the AMA contributed more than $1.6 million to members of Congress. Over the last two elections, it has donated more than $12,000 to each of 50 members of the House. Forty-eight of those 50 voted against legislation last November that would have placed mandatory cost controls on hospitals, a reasonable, effective step against inflation that the AMA opposed.
The National Rifle Association made campaign donations of $572,000 to 21 senators and 142 congressmen in 1978; the Kennedy-Rodino gun control bill has not yet gotten out of committee.
The special interests are sophisticated; they understand how the legislative process works. They employ the best lobbyists. They target their campaign money to the committee and subcommittee chairmen who control the relevant legislation and to the senior members of those committees. Those congressmen they can't sway they punish by targeting contributions to candidates running against them. In 1978, the second biggest recipient of oil and industry contributions -- $133,000 -- was Republican William Armstrong of Colorado. Armstrong was challenging pro-consumer incumbent Floyd Haskell. With total PAC contributions of $311,000, he outspent Haskell 2-1 and won his Senate seat.
This article is an attempt to identify exactly which Big Business interest influences which member of Congress. These days in Washington, a moderate is someone who has mortgaged himself to only one industry or corporation. Perhaps it's time that politicians were identified by the special interests they serve, rather than the state or district that elected them. Sen. Russell Long would be identified not as (D-La.) but as (D-Oil, Natural Gas, AMA, Sugar). Sen. Howard Cannon would become known as (D-Trucking, Airlines, Insurance). Sen. James McClure would be recognized as (R-Nuclear Industry, Gun Lobby, Oil, Libya). California congressman Charles Wilson would be known as (D-Military, Insurance, South Korea, AMA, Mail-Order Business). Staten Island's John Murphy would be identified as (D-Shipping, Oil, South Korea, Trucking, Military, AMA). Rep. John Wydler would become (R-Nuclear Industry, AMA). Rep. Steve Symms, now running for the Senate in Idaho, would be (R-Oil, Nuclear, Guns, AMA, Sugar, Libya, Taiwan).
Texas freshman Rep. Phil Gramm, for example, votes like a subsidiary for the oil industry and the AMA, having collected $30,000 from the AMA in 1978 and $33,600 from oil interests.
Sen. Jake Garn represents banks as well as Utah. Sen. Ernest Hollings' priority is the tobacco industry rather than the taxpayers.
And the Pentagon's delegation in this Congress is bigger than New York's.
Three disclaimers. Big economic interests don't always win. The cargo preference bill was defeated. So was the 1979 sugar quota. The consumer cooperative bank bill passed the House by one vote and became law. Sometimes scandal or the weight of evidence can push Congress in the right direction. Second, when a congressman from Michigan votes to bail out Chrysler, or a congressman from Wisconsin votes for Dairy price supports, he is also voting to benefit his own constituents. This may or may not favor the public interest, but it is predictable politics, not personal corruption.
Last, to receive money from an interest doesn't mean a member of Congress is controlled, per se. There are indentured politicians and there are principled conservatives -- the former virtually auction their souls to the highest bidder while the latter may truly believe that the government shouldn't be forcing pharmaceutical firms to market test their drugs.
Still, it would be naive to ignore the purpose and level of special interest monies. For businessmen are rational investors not given to charity. They believe their spending in the political arean buys either access or votes. Last month an executive newsletter reported a remark made by William May, chairman of the American Can Company, about his company's PAC contributions: "I've got to admit the money does have an impact," he said. "There is no doubt about it."
As long as businessmen admit this purpose and until public financing of congressional elections takes the big money out of politics, it is essential for the press and public to expose correlations between special interests money and special interest votes. The Oil Industry
Big Oil is the imperial lobby. Its corporations have more profits, more money, more PACs, more lobbyists, more researchers and more press agents than any other. For 30 years, ever since Lyndon Johnson, Sam Rayburn, Robert Kerr, George Smathers and Russell Long came to Washington, the oil industry has had more power than the elected government of the United States. The industry has not lost a vote it cared about since it won the depletion allowance in the 1920s.
On June 28, 1979, the House Voted on whether to phase out the windfall profits tax in 1990 and whether to reduce that tax rate from 70 to 60 percent -- a loss of $20 billion in revenues to the government. The oil industry prevailed. An amendment sponsored by Big Oil's rising star, Rep. James Jones, of Oklahoma, passed 236 to 183. (In 1976, Jones pleaded guilty to accepting an illegal contribution from Gulf Oil.)
Of the 267 House members who received oil PAC money in 1978, three-quarters voted for the Jones amendment. Of 58 House members who received more than $2,500 from oil PACs, according to a Congress Watch study, 55 voted for the Jones amendment. And nine of the 10 congressmen who received the most money from oil interests voted for the Jones amendment, including Charles Wilson of Texas ($45,400), Phil Gramm of Texas ($33,600), Tim Wirth of Colorado ($29,800) and Henson Moore of Louisiana ($29,300). The heroic exception was maverick Bob Eckhardt of Texas, who got $29,000 and then voted his conscience.
Among the House Members from oil-consuming states who accepted oil money and then voted with the oil-producing states were: James Courter of New Jersey, Dick Cheney of Wyoming, Steve Symms and George Hansen of Idaho, Larry Hopkins of Kentucky, James Jeffries of Kansas, Lyle Williams of Ohio, Dan Marriot of Utah, and John Murphy of New York.
In the Senate, the imperial lobby's prize asset is the imperial senator, Russell Long of Louisiana, chairman of the powerful Finance Committee which governs most legislation relevant to the oil industry. It's not just that Louisiana is one of the four biggest oil producing states, along with Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska. Sen. Long himself owns $1.2 million worth of oil land in Louisiana. In 1978 he disclosed income royalty payments from this property of more than $100,000. (How much more than $100,000 is not known, because Senate disclosure statements are filled out only in broad categories of income.)
In addition, Long's stacked committee includes oil-state senators Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, Mike Gravel of Alaska and David Boren of Oklahoma. It includes three senators who own stock in oil companies: Harry Byrd of Virginia, William Roth of Delaware and Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming. And it includes pro-oil senators Herman Talmadge and Robert Dole.
And who is in line to become the next chairman of the Senate Energy Committee? J. Bennett Johnston, the junior senator from oil-rich Louisiana. Like Long, Johnston is a flexible master of Senate rules and courtesies. And like Rep. Jones, he is smart and popular. When he was reelected in 1978, Johnston received $102,000 in campaign contributions from oil interests, including $40,000 from oil PACs. During the same year he was paid $8,000 in speaking fees by oil and gas interests. Johnston is also one of the leading advocates of nuclear power in the Senate.
Nothing better illustrated the remarkable power of the oil lobby than the Senate roll-call vote on Nov. 27, 1979. The vote was on a Bentsen amendment to give independent oil producers an exemption from the windfall profits tax for the first 1,000 barrels of oil produced each day. The amendment would cost the federal government $10 billion in revenues. It passed, 53 to 41.
The margin of victory was provided by six liberal senators from oil-consuming states: Birch Bayh of Indiana, Frank Church of Idaho, Alan Cranston of California, Gary Hart of Colorado, George McGovern of South Dakota and Dale Bumpers of Arkansas.
They are all up for reelection this year. The Banking Industry
There is no one homogeneous bank lobby. The financial community is divided into a swirling plurality of commercial interests -- sometimes overlapping, often contending. The most visible lobby is the American Bankers Association, with a membership of 14,000 banks, or 93 percent of all banks in the country. It maintains an extensive network of "contact bankers" in congressional districts, and as one of its admiring staff observed, "Most of the members don't realize the reason they are hearing from bankers back in their district is that Mr. Lowrey [the head of the office] over on Connecticut Avenue has pressed the computer button."
The ABA and other financial lobbies worked feverishly on the omnibus banking bill, which was eventually signed into law recently. Many of the bill's provisions were controversial, even within the banking industry. On the subject of the authorization of NOW accounts (interest-bearing checking accounts), large banks favored it, small banks didn't. On the phase-out of Regulation Q (which mandates higher savings account ceilings for "thrift" insitutions in order to encourage investment in housing mortgages), large banks were supportive, smaller banks and savings and loan associations were opposed. The bill also diluted truth-in-lending standards (e.g., it sought to eliminate the three-day cooling-off period before loans were fixed), which consumers opposed but finance companies advocated.
Working for elements of the industry on the inside were a stable of congressional friends:
Jake Garn (R-Utah) is the ranking Republican in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee -- and the recipient of $11,150 from banking and real estate interests in honoraria or PAC recipts. On the Senate floor, Garn defended his attempted scuttling of truth-in-lending provisions of the omnibus banking bill as "pro-consumer," though no consumer group supported his contention. One staff assistant to the Senate-house conference noted that "consumer groups didn't have a chance of influencing the legislation. Although there were approximately 100 changes in the previous law, there were no hearings held in the House." Garn also fought an amendment, vehemently opposed by all depository institutions, but supported by consumer groups, that would have reduced the minimum market certificates from $10,000 to $1,000.
John Tower (R-Tex.) is another vocal advocate of the large banks on the Senate Banking Committee. One issue large commercial users strongly opposed was mandatory membership requirements for the Federal Reserve System; they perferred that the Fed pay interest on member banks' reserves as a way of inducing membership -- an alternative that would cost the Treasury $200 million annually. "Tower and Garn fought bitterly for reserves paying interest," noted an opposing lobbyist. Tower got $47,300 from bank and real estate PACs in 1977-78, and another $4,250 in honoraria.
Robert Morgan (D-N.C.) led an unsuccessful effort in 1975 on behalf of the banking industry against the then pending Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The measure required a federal agency, before approving a new bank branch, to review bank loans in order to assess if the bank had been serving the community. Morgan has real estate holdings that total from $500,000 to $1 million; he received $8,250 in honoraria from banking interests in 1978 and $4,850 in 1977-80 from banking industry PACs.
Thomas Ashley (D-Ohio), though better known as chairman of Speaker O'Neill's Special Energy Committee in 1977-78, has been very important to the banking industry because of his influence in the House establishment. In 1976, for example, Ashely took a leadership role against a bill that would have expanded the Fed's board of directors to include an equal number of consumer/non-banking people with banking representatives (the ratio was then 2:1 for the industry). It would also have made regional Federal Reserve bank presidents more accountable to the public by having them appointed by the president and approved by the Senate instead of chosen by the Fed board. Ashley was able to defeat both proposals. In 1978, he received a total of $29,700 from honoraria and PACs tied to the financial community. The Military Contractors
During the late 1970s when the norm for defense contractors was late deliveries and huge cost overruns, the Bath Iron Works in Maine was quietly delivering guided missile frigates for the Navy ahead of schedule and under budget. But now some will be built in Washington and California by companies that have proven incapable of delivering on time or near contract levels.
Why? Because of pressure from such a congressional power as Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Magnuson complained about Maine getting all of the frigate contracts and demanded that some be built in his state. When Maine's Sen. Edmund Muskie and others objected, Magnuson held the defense appropriations bill hostage -- refusing to release it from committee -- until they capitulated to his demand. In 1979, Magnuson accepted $11,000 in PAC contributions from nine major defense contractors.
Litton Industry's best friend in Congress is 78-year-old Sen. John Stennisn (D-Miss.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Litton, which runs the Pascagoula Naval Shipyards in Mississippi, tends to deliver its ships about three years late and way over budget. When the revolutionary government of Iran canceled the Shah's order for four of their advanced ships, Litton went to Stennis and Stennis went to work. He got the Navy to buy all four ships -- even though construction had begun on only tow of them -- and to cut some of their other contracts to pay for the order.
"The A-7 attack fighter has been built every year without any requests by the Pentagon," according to an Air Force officer. "It's [Sen.] John Tower's project. He convinced the National Guard Association to take his side and lobby for it." Designed in the 1950s, the A-7 is "so out of date a lot just go into storage," says a former House aide involved in defense matters. It's not that Sen. Tower likes outmoded aircraft, it's just that General Dynamics builds the A-7 in his state. Like other congressmen and senators active on defense matters, Tower accepts sizable contributions from defense contractors -- $10,200 in 1977-78.
"State loyalty is pretty important," according to the legislative assistant to a House Armed Services Committee member. "Take someone like Charlie Wilson (D-Calif.) and what he did on the B-1, which was partly built in his district. He was not doing something against his principles. He wants a lot of military programs -- but mostly he wants them in his district. Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) also fought for the B-1 even though he wouldn't have been caught dead supporting it if it didn't mean jobs and votes in Southern California." Already this year Wilson has received $11,050 and Cranston $7,100 from PACs of major military contractors.
Congressman Wilson is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for improperly diverting $29,000 from his campaign fund to pay off overdue bank loans and for jaunts to California racetracks. He is also accused of accepting $15,500 in cash from a California mail-order millionaire who had a direct interest in legislation pending before the Post Office subcommittee, of which Wilson is the chairman.
Others promoting specific contractor interests include:
Democratic Georgia representative and John Birch Society member Larry McDonald. McDonald got $119 million for six Lockheed C-9 planes -- built at Marietta in his district -- and received $3,200 from military industry PACs from 1975 to 1978.
Democratic Rep. Mendel Davis. Davis holds the district of former Congressman Mendel Rivers, his godfather, in Charleston, S.C., where 35 percent of the district's workers are employed by military installations or industries. Davis managed to get his colleagues to agree to spend $25 million on electronics for a reconnaissance plane. He also accepted $11,700 from industry PACs from 1975 to July 1978.
Bob Wilson (R-Calif.). Wilson got $6 million for ships likely to be made in his state and took $14,745 from defense-related PACs.
Robert Badham, also a California Republican. Badham added $17 million for improvements in Lockheed's P-3 patrol plane (Lockheed has a plant near his Orange County district) and took $19,000 from military PACs.
"I couldn't tell you if they supported these projects because they got industry money," says one congressional observer, "or if they get the money because the industry wants to keep them in office longer." The Medical Lobby
On Nov. 15, 1979, the House of Representatives had a chance to prove it is capable of doing something to reduce inflation. Up for debate was HR 2626, a bill that would have placed mandatory cost controls on hospitals. Sponsors of the bill like Rep. Charles Rangel estimated that it would save hospital patients $40 billion over the next five years, placing an 11.6 percent ceiling on increases in hospital costs.
But the AMA and its five full-time lobbyists, led by John Zapp, went to work to defeat the legislation. Their strategy was to draft a substitute "killer amendment" to make cost controls "voluntary" and to crate a national commission to "study" the problem. The AMA's substitute was sponsored by Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Phil Gramm of Texas. It passed 234 to 166.
After this easy conquest, Common Cause did an analysis of the vote. Out of 50 members of the House who received more than $11,750 in campaign money from the AMA since 1976, 48 voted against the original proposal.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas -- himself a doctor -- got $56,000 in 1978 from the AMA and voted for the Gephardt amendment. Phil Gramm got $30,000 in 1978.
During the debate Rep. Paul Simon pointed out that the passage of hospital cost containment would save $600 million just in fiscal year 1980. "Big deal," snapped Rep. James Martin of North Carolina, who has received $13,500 from the AMA.
Other AMA beneficiaries who voted against cost comtainment include: Richard Kelly, of Abscam rame, who got $25,250; Robin Beard of Tennessee (who led the opposition to making Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday because it would cost too much) got $15,000; Steve Symms of Idaho got $15,000; Robert Dornan of California got $13,800; California's Charles Wilson got $11,500; Marty Russo of Illinois got $7,800; and Larry McDonald of Georgia got $4,000; Norman Lent and John Wydler, the Special Interest Twins of Long Island, each got $12,600. John Murphy was the only New York City congressman to vote with the AMA, which gave him $2,500 in 1978.
In the Senate, the AMA's most effective agent is Herman Talmadge, chairman of the health subcommittee of the Finance Committee. (Talmadge is also the main agent of corporate farmers.) In 1974, Talmadge only spent $65,000 to get reelected, but more than $15,000 of that was donated by committees representing doctors and hospitals. During 1977 and 1978, Talmadge reported receiving more than $25,000 in speaking fees from hospitals and other health industry groups. On Oct. 12, 1978, the Senate passed the Talmadge amendment -- which frustrated an attempt to impose cost controls on hospitals -- by only five votes. Among the senators voting for the amendment were Charles Percy, John Heinz, Richard Schweiker, Howard Baker, Wendell Ford, Mark Hatfield and Frank Church. All seven senators had received campaign money from the AMA.
During the last two national elections, the AMA contributed $3.9 million to House and Senate candidates. In 1976, the AMA contributed to 42 Senate candidates -- 17 Democrats, 24 Republicans, and one independent. Two-thirds of the current membership of both the House and Senate accepted AMA funds in their last campaign.
In addition more than $300,000 has been contributed by the Federation of American Hospitals and the American Hospital Association. The Nuclear Power Industry
More than one year after the Three Mile Island accident came within 30 minutes of the meltdown that couldn't happen, Congress has not passed one reform of the industry or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Not that reforms haven't been attempted. The Markey amendment called for a six-month moratorium on construction licenses for nuclear power plants. Passed out of the House Interior Committee, it was easily defeated 2-1 on the House floor last November. At the urging of Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), the Senate passed an amendment to refuse operating licenses to utilities whose states do not have emergency evacuation plans. The House voted it down. And after three years of ardent efforts, the Carter administration still cannot shut down the Clinch River Breeder program, which is based on an already outdated technology that breeds not only nuclear fuel but also large amounts of weapon-grade plutonium. Nor has any committee passed a revision or elimination of the Price-Anderson act, which limits to $560 million the amount of compensation any nuclear facility would have to pay in the event of a major accident -- though such an accident could impose $15 billion of injury.
That the nuclear industry is doing so well in Congress, when it is withering economically and public opinion polls register sharp drops in popular support, it a credit to its nuclear stalwarts in Congress. Not that any group of politicians is eager to confront a $70 billion industry. But the industry's supporters have tirelessly promoted the argument that nuclear power is both cheaper and safer and essential to our future energy mix.
Rep. "Atomic Mike" McCormack (D-Wash.), as he is known to environmental lobbyists, is the third-ranking Democrat on the House Science and Technology Committee and chairman of the energy research and production subcommittee. An avid booster of nuclear power (the Hartford Nuclear Works is in his Washington district), McCormack has introduced legislation to strip the somewhat progressive Interior Committee of its jurisdictionto review environmental aspects of future energy legislation and to consider nuclear plant licensing. In Arpil he released a subcommittee report which concluded that "Three Mile Island was a serious accident, but not a serious threat to human health" and that the media had caused needless public hysteria. In 1977-1980, he received $21,225 from nuclear PACs (30 percent of his PAC money) and $5,300 in energy industry related honoraria.
Rep. John Wydler (R-N.Y.) was the recipient of $2,300 from nuclear PACs in the last election (there are no nuclear plants in his district). The ranking Republican on Science and Technology, Wydler vociferously defended the Clinch River Breeder on the House floor and emotionally attacked the Weaver amendment's effort to deny operating licenses to plants in states without evacuation plans.
Rep. Dave Stockman (R-Mich.) is merely a sophomore on the energy and power subcommittee of the Commerce Committee, but he compensates for his greenness with intensity. ("I'm a nuclear hawk and proud of it," he told an observer during an energy floor debate last year, later adding at a Commerce Committee markup that he was "tired of hearing from the wood stove and windmill people.") He received $5,450 from nuclear PACs and got $1,750 in honoraria from energy sources.
Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) is now the chairman of the Senate energy regulation subcommittee. Johnston's ardor for atomic power can be seen in his bill, introduced after TMI, to speed up nuclear plant construction. He also moved, unsuccessfully, to weaken an NRC authorization bill which called for the shutdown of nuclear plants without adequate emergency evacuation plans. Johnston received $57,225 from nuclear PACs and $15,000 in honoraria from energy interests.
Sen. James McClure (R-Ind.) is described by The Almanac of American Politics as "one of the most influential of the Rocky Mountain conservatives who have become an important force in the Senate. He strongly supports nuclear power." In 1978 McClure was among the leading opponents to placing any controls on exported nuclear plants and fuels. As new orders have evaporated, the industry has been looking to foreign markets to continue profititability. McClure's nuclear PAC total: $32,775. The Tobacco Industry
Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina is the hypocritical guardian of the tobacco industry's $200 million annual federal subsidy to spread lung cancer. Hollings, now chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, is an aggressive advocate of austerity and a balanced federal budget. In April he led the fight to reduce funding for programs that help the urban poor. He pushed for the elimination of 200,000 public service jobs under the CETA program. He drafted an amendment that eliminated $800 million in food stamps by requiring that free lunches received by poor children be counted against a family's income in determining eligibility for food stamps. Hollings also voted to end $500 million in social security benefits, to reduce health care funding by $900 million and to slash mass transit subsidies by $200 million.
When Sen. Patrick Moynihan, in turn, questioned the tobacco price supports, Hollings said that Moynihan "represents the fiscal debauchery of New York . . . his whole town is on food stamps."
In the face of a mountain of scientific evidence, Hollings insists that "there is no proven connection between smoking and lung cancer." In 1978, he was paid speaking fees of $2,000 by the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company and $1,000 by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. He also received substantial campaign funding from tobacco interests.
Among those voting with Hollings on the Senate Budget Committee in April To protect the tobacco subsidy were two free-market, fiscal conservatives from states with no tobacco economy: Orrin Hatch off Utah and James Exon of Nebraska.
Tobacco state senators Robert Morgan and Wendell Ford also guard the tobacco price supports. The Anti-FTC Lobby
While the FTC was attacked in the late 1960s for doing too little, it is now in a state of siege because it is doing too much. Wielding new powers to issue industry-wide trade rules, the commission recently angered enough special interests to jeopardized its existence.
The Senate subcommittee charged with overseeing the agency is chaired by Wendell Ford, a former Kentucky governor and businessman. Ford is close to the business community not merely due to his origins, but also because since 1977 he has headed the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. As The Almanac off American Politics notes, "Majority leader Byrd took the unusual step of asking Ford to take the post another two years, on the theory that he has a special ability to get contributions from business-oriented groups and individuals."
Ford's subcommittee held general oversight hearings on the FTC, which, one committee aide said, "served largely as a forum for FTC opponents to vent their anger at the agency."
After these general hearings, Ford Suddenly introduced S. 1991, which contained very specific crippling amendments that had never been discussed at the original hearings. His bill, which passed subcommittee, committee and the Senate largely intact, sought to end investigations aimed at children's advertising and "standards and certification" organizations, forbade the FTC from issuing a rule to require used car dealers to disclose information about defects not obvious to customers, reduced the agency's subpoena authority and limited its ability to challenge unfair advertising.
In the last four months of 1979 alone, Ford raised $44,800 in contributions and $5,000 in honoraria from industries lobbying against the FTC; in the past three years, he has gotten at least $75,000 for his Democratic Campaign Committee from these interests.
Watching the Senate Commerce Committee voting for a raft of special interest exemptions, Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) became encouraged to try for one of his own. At the committee markup in late 1979, he proposed to deny the FTC the remedy of divestiture in anti-trust cases -- which is often the only worthwhile remedy in monopoly lawsuits. His proposal would have stopped anti-monopoly cases against the oil and cereal industries dead in their tracks, yet not one day of hearings had been held on his radical proposal. After Heflin, who now chairs the Senate Ethics Committee, said he was a "pretty good nose counter and "I believe I have the votes now," Sen. Russell Long persuaded him that the committee was acting in unseemly haste. Unfortunately for Heflin, at the hearings later that month it was disclosed that much of his staff's memorandum promoting the amendment had been lifted word for word from briefs written by lawyers representing industries sued by the FTC, Embarrassed, he withdrew his proposal.
Over in the House, Chicago Rep. Marty Russo led the fight against a modest rule requiring funeral directors to quote itemized prices over the phone and tell the truth about state codes -- such as whether embalming is really required. First, he claimed that the FTC had very few complaints on file -- complaints which turned out to number over 1,000. Then he repeatedly told his colleagues that the proposed rule would cost $50 million, even though that figure was the industry's own exaggerated estimate for an earlier and broader rule that the FTC had already rejected. Having exploited Congress' current cost-consciousness, he then pursued another congressional fashion, telling representatives as they arrived on the floor that "a vote against bureaucracy." These arguments, coupled with 34,000 funeral directors in every congressional district lobbying for his exemption, led to a 2-1 House victory.
Russo has received only $1,600 from the funeral interests, though they may well be inclined to favor him in the future after his laborious efforts. Perhaps, though, the congressman honestly believes that consumers shouldn't have price information about different funeral services when, bereaved, they patronize a funeral home.
In all, corporate interests seeking exemptions from FTC law enforcement contributed $5.49 million to campaigns in 1979, according to an investigative report by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Insurance Industry
In theory, this $150 billion a year industry is supposed to be regulated by the states. But the insurance companies are so large and powerful they easily dominate local commissioners and legislatures. So, under Sen. Howard Metzenbaum's urging, the FTC did a preliminary study on the cost disclosure problems in life insurance. Nevada Sen. Howard Cannon came to the industry's rescue. He quickly got his Commerce Committee to deny the FTC the authority to even conduct studies of the insurance industry, much less regulate its immense abuses. Last year Cannon was paid a $2,000 honorarium by the National Association of Independent Insurers to give a speech in Georgia. He and his wife also got free round-trip air travel to Atlanta.
Sen. Wendell Ford off Kentucky is another faithful servant of the insurance industry. Sen. Ford holds a partnership interest worth more than $100,000 in E.M. Ford & Company, an insurance company in Owensboro, Ky., and receives more than $100,000 in annual income from his interest in the Ford Life Insurance Company of Owensboro. The Shipping Industry
The shipping industry in one of the most heavily subsidized sectors of the economy. This year the federal budget includes $256 million for ship operating subsidies, $101 million for ship construction subsidies, and $35 million for operating expenses. The shipping industry, in close collaboration with the maritime unions, has latched on to these welfare payments with one-stop-shopping: Rep. John Murphy, chairman of the House Merchant Marine Committee.
Maritime interests contributed more than $50,000 to Murphy's 1978 reelection campaign, and on June 12, 1979, they kicked in $16,000 for Murphy's 1980 election treasury. Moreover, Murphy collected $11,500 in speaking fees from the maritime industry and its unions during 1978. He calls the lavish maritime subsidies "incentives."
A few years ago, when the shipping interests were trying to pass the inflationary cargo preference bill, 24 members of Murphy's committee collected $82,000 in campaign contributions from maritime interests. Leo Zeferetti of Brooklyn got $21,000 and Mario Biaggi got $6,800. They both voted in favor of the bill in committee, and again on the floor, where it lost, 257 to 165. The Trucking Industry
Every president since Eisenhower has supported legislation to reform the economic structure of the trucking industry. Common Cause estimates that the price-fixing structure of the trucking industry costs consumers $2 billion a year in higher prices.
But nothing has been done to reform trucking regulation. One reason is the combined clout of the American Trucking Association and the Teamsters union, who hunt together, like owners and unions do in the maritime industry. In 1976 and 1978, the truckers and the Teamsters contributed $759,000 to congressional candidates. The industry has also hired the Hill and Knowlton public relations firm to lobby against reform.
A few years ago, Sen. Edward Kennedy and President Carter agreed on a trucking reform bill (S 1400) that encouraged competition and ended the industry's antitrust immunity. But one senator and one congressman have proved to be initial stumbling blocks: Sen. Howard Cannon, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. James Howard of New Jersey, chairman of the transportation subcommittee.
Cannon, however, has been damaged recently as a result of a publicized investigation by the FBI involving his business dealings with Teamster union insurance operator Alan Dorfman. Since the disclosure off the inquiry, Chairman Cannon has supported a trucking deregulation bill with many off the Carter-Kennedy provisions.
In 1978, Rep. Howard accepted $5,600 in trucking campaign funds, and $8,500 in speaking fees from trucking interests. Howard is now sponsoring his own legislation (HR 6418) that would continue antitrust immunity for most off the trucking industry. The Airline Industry
Sen. Howard Cannon is this industry's main advocate. For years Cannon has been the chairman off the subcommittee on aviation, and now he is chairman of the full Commerce Committee. He usually does whatever the airlines want in terms off subsidies, higher fares and mergers. Last year, Cannon pushed through legislation that relaxed regulations against airplane noise.
In 1964, Riddle Airlines Inc. was fined by the Civil Aeronautics Board for providing free flights to Las Vegas for a group of Washington lobbyists to attend a fund-raising dinner for Sen. Cannon. In 1974, Cannon received campaign contributions from Delta Airlines, Eastern, Allegheny, Alaska and Pan American. In 1978, he reported speaking honoraria of $5,000 from airline industry groups.
In the House, the industry's water carrier is Barry Goldwater Jr. He sponsored the 2 percent ticket tax increase on consumers in 1978. Among those voting yes when this bill passed, 272 to 123, was Rep. Jack Kemp, who collects big lecture fees to make speeches in favor of tax cuts. The tax increase was supposed to pay for noise abatement and safety measures the airlines should have paid for out of their own considerable profits. The Gun Lobby
A few months ago the National Rifle Association (NRA) purchased a four-page advertisement in the American Rifleman that boasted: "Last year we supported 256 pro-gun candidates including 90 nonincumbents. We saw 213 elected."
Over the last two federal elections, the gun lobby has contributed more than $1 million to candidates for Congress. As a result, strict gun control legislation, favored by a majority of Americans according to polls, has never been enacted into law.
The leading pro-gun senator is James McClure of Idaho, who received more than $8,000 in NRA contributions in his last campaign. McClure is now sponsoring legislation to repeal some of the provisions of the 1978 Gun Control Act, which was passes after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. His bill would also eliminate the licensing of ammunition dealers. McClure's legislation has 31 cosponsors in the Senate, including Mark Hatfield, Howell Heflin, and Robert Dole. The leading House sponsor is Rep. Harold Volkmer of Missouri, who got $1,200 from the gun lobby in 1978. A key supporter is Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, who is himself a director of the NRA and a member of its lobbying arm's "Hall of Fame."
After the murder of former congressman Allard Lowenstein, several of those who eulogized him said the passage of the Kennedy-Rodino bill would be a fitting memorial. This bill would limit the commerce in handguns and make it harder for persons with a history of mental illness to acquire handguns. The law would not apply to rifles or shotguns. But the NRA, and the 213 members of Congress who got NRA money in 1978, have effectively kept the Kennedy-Rodino bill locked up in committee. The Auto Industry
There was a time when even a member of the Michigan delegation might challenge the auto industry, which employs 11 percent of Detroit's workforce. The late Sen. Philip Hart, for example, insisted that GM ought to be broken up under the antitrust laws. No longer. Michigan's senators invariably line up behind their dominant major industry. So Don Riegle votes against lifesaving airbags (keep government out of the marketplace) and for the Chrysler bail-out (keep government in the marketplace). Of 19 Michigan representatives, 18 voted for the Chrysler bail-out, Rep. Dave Stockman being the lone exception. As one Michigander explained to us about his efforts to help an obviously mismanaged Chrysler, "Sometimes you have to rise above principle."
Rep. John Dingell, though, goes well beyond the call of duty. The congressman from Dearborn, and the likely next chairman of the House Commerce Committee, Dingell fought valiantly but unsuccessfully to weaken Clean Air Act requirements in the early 1970s. More recently, he has been the House floor leader against a Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation requiring cars to have "passive restraints" (airbags is one such example) by 1982-1984, a provision which the department estimates would save 9,000 lives and 63,000 injuries annually.
Dingell claims not to be anti-airbag, only that the issue should be studied more fully -- although DOT first proposed the standard in 1969 and a GM president said the company could implement it in the mid-1970s. Still, playing on hostility to the bureaucracy, Dingell has twice persuaded the House to block DOT from meeting the passive restraint standard with airbags.
A non-Michigan champion of the auto industry has been Pennsylvania Rep. Bud Shuster, the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, who is as rabidly anti-airbag as Dingell. A typical Shuster press release quotes him as saying that "airbags could actually cause more highway deaths than they prevent. Additionally, the $200 price tag on a factory-installed airbag, coupled with an even greater replacement cost, could escalate into a consumer rip-off of over $20 billion." His rhetoric soaring, Shuster -- who received $6,050 in auto industry contributions in 1977-78 -- went so far as to say in a "Dear Colleague" letter that it would be safer to run into a wall at 30 miles per hour with no restraints than it would be with an airbag. This claim prompted a challenge from Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), "that we both go out and run into a wall at 30 miles per hour, [Shuster] with no restraint and me with an airbag." Shuster declined the opportunity.
In all, auto interests contributed $1.2 million to congressional candidates in 1977-78.
In the end, this is an article about the real causes of inflation. Federal deficits and social programs like food stamps and job training are not the major cause of inflation. But the AMA's defeat of cost controls for hospitals is one cause, and so are the 20 percent interest rates charged by banks. The trucking industry's immunity from antitrust laws concerning price fixing is a factor in inflation. So are the $200 million in price supports to the tobacco industry and the $440 million in maritime subsidies. And the hoarding and profiteering of Big Oil is the biggest single domestic element in inflation.
Conservatives love to say that there is no such thing as a free lunch. But there is no such thing as a free subsidy or a free missile or a free tax exemption either. CAPTION: Illustration 1, no caption; Illustration 2, Senators: Russell Long, Bennett Johnston, Lloyd Bentsen, Mike Gravel, William Armstrong, David Boren, William Roth, Malcolm Wallop, Herman Talmadge, Robert Dole. Representatives: James Jones, Charles Wilson (Tex.), Henson Moore, James Courter, Dick Cheney, Steve Symms, George Hansen, Larry Hopkins, James Jeffries, Lyle Williams, Dan Marriott, John Murphy.; Illustration 3, Senator: Howard Cannon. Representatives: Barry Goldwater Jr., Jack Kemp. Illustration 4, Senators: James McClure, Mark Hatfield, Robert Dole, Howell Heflin. Representatives: Harold Volkmer, John Dingell.; Illustration 5, Senators: Sam Nunn, John Stennis, Warren Magnuson, John Tower, Alan Cranston, Howard Cannon. Representatives: Charles Wilson (Calif.), Larry McDonald, Mendel Davis, Bob Wilson, Robert Badham, Robert Dornan.; Illustration 6, Senator: Don Riegle. Representatives: John Dingell, Bud Shuster.; Illustration 7, Representatives: John Murphy, Mario Biaggi, Leo Zaferetti.; Illustration 8, Senators: Howard Cannon, Ernest hollings. Representative: James Howard.; Illustration 9, Senators: Wendell Ford, Howard Cannon, John Danforth. Representatives: Marty Russo, Mark Andrews.; Illustration 10, Senators: Howard Cannon, Wendell Ford.; Illustration 11, Senators: Charles Percy, John Heinz, Richard Schweiker, Howard Baker, Wendell Ford, Mark Hatfield, Herman Talmadge, Frank Church. Representatives: John Wydler, Phil Gramm, Richard Gephardt, Ron Paul, Richard Kelly, Robin Beard, Charles Wilson (Calif.), Robert Dornan, John Murphy, Larry McDonald, Steve Symms, James Martin, Marty Russo, Norman Lent.; Illustration 12, Senators: Ernest Hollings, Orrin Hatch, James Exon, Wendell Ford, Robert Morgan.; Illustration 13, Senators: Jake Garn, John Tower, Robert Morgan. Representatives: Thomas Ashley, William Stanton.; Illustration 14, Senators: Bennett Johnston, James McClure. Representatives: Mike McCormack, John Wydler, Dave Stockman, Manuel Lujan.; Illustration 15, Senators: Howard Cannon, Russell Long, James McClure, Wendell Ford, Ernest Hollings, Herman Talmadge. Representatives: Phil Gramm, Charles Wilson (Calif.), John Murphy, Steve Symms, Larry McDonald, James Jones. Illustrations by James Hellmuth