Business Execs Hedge Bets With Campaign Cash

Washington Matters

Business Execs Hedge Bets With Campaign Cash

Majority party power in the House and Senate has unique and telling benefits in fundraising for Democrats in the 2009-2010 election cycle. Though Republicans got a bump recently and are likely to do better going forward, industry sectors with important issues pending in Congress are showering more dollars to Democrats, who will have a much bigger say on what legislation is passed. There are several top industry kingpins in this game, shelling out millions in total to lawmakers in key positions. 


To date in the 2009-2010 cycle, the top industrial-sector donors are health care industry professionals, who are giving at the rate of 64% to Democrats and 35% to Republicans. Self-identified health care industry executives have given $8.6 million to incumbent lawmakers so far, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations. The largest single recipient in this sector is centrist Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, who may have a large voice in a final compromise and who also may be in a tough reelection race next year.  

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The biggest group of contributors are lawyers and law firm partners, who represent clients in all industry sectors. They've given $14.5 million so far at the rate of 84% to Democrats and $16% to Republicans. The largest single recipient here is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has the largest say in the Senate work schedule and face a tough reelection battle.

Real estate professionals follow health care in the top-dog donor list. They have given $6.8 million so far to individual lawmakers, divided it 66% to 33% in favor of Democrats. Top recipient: Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, who sits on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.


Executives in the securities and financial services industry are next in line, giving $6.7 million, split 77% for Democrats and 23% for Republicans. The top single recipient in this category is also Schumer, whose Banking Committee will have a large say in pending regulatory reform of financial markets. Schumer also sits on the Finance Committee.

Insurance industry executives are next, having donated $5.9 million so far and apportioning it 59% to Democrats and 41% to Republicans. The top single recipient again is Schumer.

Construction labor union members follow and have given $4.9 million at a ratio of 91% to Democrats and 9% to Republicans. The top single recipient is freshman Rep. John Adler, D, who narrowly won last year in his polticially closely divided central New Jersey district and is considered a vulnerable Democrat in the 2010.

Both the pharmaceutical and electrical industry sectors have given about the same, $3.3 million each to date, and dividing donations roughly at 60% to Democrats and 40% to Republicans. In each case, the single top recipient has been Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, who sits on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Burr may have a larger role months from now in limiting the burden on industry of an energy cap-and-trade proposal. Several drug companies also have operations and labs in North Carolina. He also faces a tough reelection next year.


An interesting flip in the trend favoring Democrats is the oil and gas industry. Executives in this sector have donated $2.6 million so far, awarding 37% to Democrats and 63% to Republicans. The top recipient is also Sen. Lincoln of Arkansas, who may have an important role in determining the shape and scope of regulations of commodity futures.

Lincoln, the new chairman of the Agriculture Committee, is also the top recipient of dollars from donors in the agricultural crop industries, who have split donations 61% to Democrats and 39% to Republicans so far this year.