Friday, December 7, 2007

Following the Money in the 08 Elections

Open has a useful chart that reviews the 100 largest political contributers since 1989. Some of these, such as Enron, are no longer as important as they once were.

Of the top ten contributors, six are labor organizations: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME, rank number 1), the National Education Association (5),the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (7), the Laborers Union (8), the Service Employees' International Union (9), and the Carpenters and Joiners Union (10). AT&T Corporaton is two, the National Association of Realtors is three, the American Association of Justice (formerly the Trial Lawyers' Association) is four and Goldman Sachs is six. Given the pain that the financial community has or will have caused in the next ten years, it is surprising that only Goldman is in the top ten. As well, given the limited success of labor organizations in securing their legislative goals, it is surprising that they dominate the top ten.

Taking the full 100 into account I counted the following categories:

Unions and labor organizations: 28
Large corporations: 53
Professional associations: 7
Small business associations: 7
Special and Public interests: 5

The large corporations include several leading commercial and investment banks. These include Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, American Bankers' Association, JP Morgan Chase, and Merrill Lynch. The special and public interest groups include Emily's list, a feminist lobbying group that has contributed $18.2 million and ranks number 25. According to the Emily List website:
"our grassroots network has helped elect 69 Democratic pro-choice members of Congress, 13 senators, and eight governors." AFSCME has contributed $39.1 million since 1989. No wonder state governments are booming. At the bottom of the list BP Amoco has contributed $5.7 million.

It would be interesting to know explicitly what these organizations expect from their sizable donations. Some, such as the American Medical Association or the National Education Association would seem fairly obvious. Others, such as the Carpenters and Joiners seems less so. Are they looking for additional projects? General workplace regulation? Special laws that are beneficial to carpenters?

Likewise, it would be interesting to know the degree to which the banking lobbies have pressured for the monetary expansion that has benefited banking, the stock market and the hedge industry in the past quarter century.

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