I’m going to get off the subject of the Iraq War and back into my favorite subject which is campaign finance. My short tenure as Chairman of the Liberal Party of America was an experience that enabled me to understand how politics works in this country. This knowledge was the reason that we struck our tents as fast as we put them up. It is unfortunate that we abandoned the LPA, but it was inevitable that we would have to, better sooner than later before too many people put their time and money into something that would never had succeeded at the time we embarked on that short journey.
In order to get a good understanding of a candidate, it really isn’t necessary to actually listen to their campaign speeches and to read their campaign literature. The candidates when speaking on the trail will read one of a few speeches that they have given many times, it all depends on the group that they are speaking to. When a candidate speaks to labor, they will read their labor speech. If they are talking to a group of low-income, working class people, they will pull out their “I’m one of you” speeches. I’m not going to belabor the point, I’m sure that you understand. No, the best way to understand a candidate isn’t to listen to them, the best way to truly understand where a candidate stands on issues is to look at who is putting up the money that funds their candidacy. It’s pure commonsense, no group or corporation is going to fund anyone unless it is in their best interests.
“Many of the campaigns have played up the notion that most of their donors give small contributions. What they have not emphasized is that, in raw dollar terms, the big donations are vastly more important to the campaigns' bottom lines.” (www.opensecrets.org)
Energy/Nat Resource $2,871,473
Lawyers & Lobbyists $6,648,851
Misc Business $8,215,460
Other $10,720,550* Opensecrets.org
Now, let’s look at the second campaign in 2004:
Energy & Natural Resources $4,771,016
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate $33,844,215
Lawyers & Lobbyists $12,944,701
Misc. Business $20,625,735
What is interesting here isn’t who donated, what’s interesting is that all of the donations actually more than doubled, except for labor. If you take this at face value, even accounting for inflation, why was it so much more expensive to run the second time as an incumbent? I’m not nearly done yet. Looking into who gave what to whom, there is an 800 lb. Gorilla in the living room, see if you can pick it out before I get to it.
John Kerry had his share of corporate benevolence, as did Al Gore. Kerry’s donation by sector looked like this in 2004:
Energy & Natural Resources $725,767
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate $14,055,247
Lawyers & Lobbyists $23,370,438
Misc. Business $14,769,296
Does anyone see a pattern here? Who makes up these “sectors” that the Center for Responsive Politics calls them? Agribusiness is identified easily enough, Cargill, ADM, Ralston-Purina and all of the agricultural companies fit nicely there. The others sound cut and dry, but are they? Not really, the communication/electronic sector crosses over into defense, as do many others on the list. I don’t believe that there is any nefarious reasons here, its only because it is difficult to group any enterprise under a single banner. I do wish however, that the finance, insurance and real estate sector could have been separated into three different sectors. I believe that the three are so intertwined, with a few corporations holding controlling interests in the three different areas of publicly owned corporations, that separating them wouldn’t be honest, therefore they are grouped together. The way around this would have been to call the sector “banking”. In fact, the largest contributor to Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, John Edwards and Mitt Romney is Goldman Sachs, the investment banking firm. The truth is that Goldman Sachs has, since 1990, contributed $26,414,065.00 to political campaigns. The firm has delivered over $311,000.00 to Obama’s campaign alone. While Goldman Sachs might be the top contributor, there are many other banks that contribute mightily. Citigroup is one of the top contributors to Chris Dodd, John McCain and Hillary Clinton to the tune of $420,880.00, with the lion’s share going to Clinton.
I could go on all day about the banks that are bankrolling the presidential candidates from both parties. (No pun intended). I won’t because after awhile the numbers become meaningless. I will report that since 1990, investment banks have contributed $177,739,858 to political campaigns. Credit Unions $17,533,968, Finance & Credit companies $48,986,139, Savings and Loans $18,234,312, Securities and Investments $473,725,275, venture capitalists $42,080,653 and Hedge funds a paltry $8,173,223 (since 2002). That adds up to $786,473,428. That’s a lot of money!
Now picture yourself with your contribution to your favorite candidate, the one that promises he will represent you in the White House or the Senate or the House. Think of your $100.00 donation in your sweaty palm ready to lay it down for your principles. Than think of the “finance, insurance and real estate sector” that has given close to a billion dollars that they admit to. Who do you think is going to be represented here? Just remember, when you hear the “conspiracy nut” raving about the bankers controlling the Federal Government, just remember what you read here today. The truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
That’s the way I see it.
Thanks to the Center for Responsive Politics and their web-site Opensecrets.org for the information provided.