Debunking the liberal campaign finance reform position that power follows money, a new report by The Leadership Institute shows the power of incumbency is the motivating factor behind the giving behavior of business and association political action committees (PACs).
"Often those who make decisions in business PACs are Washington lobbyists who have risen in life by trying to make almost everybody happy," noted Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell in his introduction to the report. "They are more interested in influencing incumbents, or at least in having access to incumbents, than they are in influencing the outcome of elections."
Blackwell's findings were echoed by a similar report issued by the Center for Responsive Politics.
During the 1995-6 election cycle, Republicans - who made up 53.5% of congressional incumbents - received 69.3% of the over $134 million in contributions made by the top 937 business and association PACs. This is up from 48.3% in 1993-4, when Republicans comprised only 41.7% of the seats in Congress. Incumbents received 76.7% of donations from these PACs in 1995-6, with only 6.7% of donations going to challengers and 16.7% to candidates for open seats. These percentages are almost identical to giving patterns in 1993-4 (77.4%, 6.9% and 15.7%, respectively).
The Leadership Institute report further notes that - unlike labor union PACs, which give almost exclusively to liberals and Democrats - business and association PACs do not consistently support conservatives. In fact, some major businesses give a large portion of their donations to liberal candidates. Using the giving trends of conservative PACs for measurement, the report found that juicemaker Ocean Spray's PAC gave 70.5% of its donations to liberal candidates in 1995-6. Archer Daniels Midland Company, often associated with Republican Presidential candidate Bob Dole during the last election, nonetheless spent 69.5% of its PAC dollars in support of liberals. Law firms, the Association of Trial Lawyers and health care association PACs had near-perfect giving records to liberal candidates.
A recent Field Poll of eligible California voters finds that almost three-quarters of them support the "Campaign Reform Initiative" (CRI) ballot measure expected to appear on the state's June, 1998 primary ballot.
The CRI would prohibit employers and labor unions from making payroll deductions for state and local political activity unless they first obtain annual written approval from affected workers. It also bans foreign political contributions to state and local political campaigns.
The December 10th edition of the Sacramento Bee reports that 72% of those surveyed supported the CRI, while only 22% said they opposed it. Only 6% had no opinion. Support for the CRI is strongly bipartisan, with 66% of identified Democrats endorsing the CRI and 82% of Republicans also acknowledging their support.
While organized labor has announced strong opposition to the CRI, the position of union leaders does not seem to have made an impact on rank-and-file union membership. Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said there were "no significant differences in approval between union and non-union members."
Labor union leaders have said they intend to spend well over $20 million to defeat the CRI. This money, ironically, will come from involuntary contributions from union members - the very practice that will be outlawed if the CRI is approved.
Campaign Finance Factoids Have the Democrats Hurt Asian-American Race Relations?
Have the Democrats hurt Asian-American race relations? A report by the National Asian Pacific Legal Consortium chronicling over 500 "hate crimes" against Asian-Americans says the campaign finance scandal has helped perpetuate suspicions against Asian-Americans. Washington Governor Gary Locke, an Asian-American, says the scandal has had a "chilling effect" on political activism in the Asian-American community. Some Asian-Americans have even likened their current treatment by fundraisers to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
AFL-CIO Stands By Accused Leader
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka stands accused of helping funnel $150,000 in mandatory member dues to support the reelection campaign of Teamster President Ron Carey. Despite these serious charges, he has the full support of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Sweeney says an "internal inquiry" vindicates Trumka. Trumka refused to testify before a federal grand jury on Fifth Amendment grounds that he may incriminate himself. Under a 1957 AFL-CIO policy, Trumka could be expelled from the union if his failure to comply with the federal probe is found to be an effort to cover-up union corruption.
Political Money Monitor is published by The National Center for Public Policy Research to provide information on campaign finance and political choice issues. Coverage of an event or article in Political Money Monitor does not imply endorsement by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Copyright 1997 The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints of articles in Political Money Monitor are permitted provided source is credited. ###
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