The Washington Post

Obama takes big bucks from telecoms, ramps up national security state

Vin Scully, Wikipedia
Vin Scully, frequent Republican contributor (Wikipedia)

Thomas Ferguson is a political scientist who for decades has studied campaign contributions in American political history. His ongoing theme is that, when it comes to campaign funding, the key differences are not between rich and poor (as the latter group does not give much), or even between rich and middle class, but between different groups of rich people, and between different industries. Ferguson’s work is related to theories of politics as elite contribution, but with the empirical twist that he is going through hard data on contributions. And such data are increasingly available.

From time to time we have noted mismatches between political reporting and the data. For example, in September 2008, John Cassidy wrote in the New Yorker:

If Barack Obama is victorious on November 4th, someone on his transition team should send inauguration tickets to Richard Fuld, the chairman and chief executive of Lehman Brothers.

This was meant to be ironic, I believe: Obama’s election relied on some part on the economic collapse triggered by Fuld’s behavior. Actually though, Fuld had contributed $2,300 to Barack Obama and the equivalent amount to John McCain, along with several other political officeholders.

Recently, Ferguson, along with Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen wrote about campaign contributions and Obama’s unexpected (to many) continuation of the controversial surveillance and security measures that were previously associated so strongly with the Bush-Cheney administration:

In sharp contrast to endlessly repeated claims that big business was deeply suspicious of the President, our statistical results show that a large and powerful bloc of “industries of the future” – telecommunications, high tech, computers, and software – showed essentially equal or higher percentages of support for the President in 2012 than they did for Romney. . . . we believe that the emergence of these new industries is a key factor in transforming the old National Security State into its new, even more sinister twenty-first century model. They are not the only important influence in that transformation, of course. These would include not only 9/11, but the rapid growth of the rest of the homeland security “industry,” including private prison companies and many other non-obvious players focused on data collection in particular domains, such as the vast infrastructure built out to service and support U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan . . .

Many of the firms and industries at the heart of this Orwellian creation have strong ties to the Democrats. . . .

We built two datasets for our research. One covers big business, meaning firms big enough to rank among the 350 largest on Fortune’s lists plus members of the Forbes 400 richest Americans. The second is a much larger sample containing every firm of every size, from the smallest to the largest. . . .

Details are here. And here’s what they found:

In our big sample, which pretty well approximates “business as a whole,” Obama trailed far behind Romney. 41 percent of all the firms (or, thanks to the Supreme Court, their executives) contributed to Romney; only 24 percent donated to Obama. . . .

But the really significant findings emerge when you look at particular industries. Six industries where the President ran especially strongly attracted our attention: telecoms, software, web manufacturing, electronics, and computers, plus the defense industry. His support in these industries ran far above his average levels of support either for business as a whole or the rest of big business. In fact, it equaled or exceeded the backing these firms afforded Romney.

It’s fun to look at campaign contributions of celebrities (see above image, taken from Wikipedia, of sportscaster and frequent Republican contributor Vin Scully) or by first name, but I agree with Ferguson and his collaborators that much is learned by breaking down contributions by industry.

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University. His books include Bayesian Data Analysis; Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks; and Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
Republicans debated Saturday night. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Dan Balz says...
Rarely has the division between Trump and party elites been more apparent. Trump trashed one of the most revered families in Republican politics and made a bet that standing his ground is better than backing down. Drawing boos from the audience, Trump did not flinch. But whether he will be punished or rewarded by voters was the unanswerable question.
GOP candidates react to Justice Scalia's death
Quoted
I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.
Sen. Marco Rubio, attacking Sen. Ted Cruz in Saturday night's very heated GOP debate in South Carolina. Soon after, Cruz went on a tirade in Spanish.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
The State's Andy Shain says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
67% 22%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

March 6: Democratic debate

on CNN, in Flint, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.