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Why Do Democrats Promote Campaign Finance Reform?

Perhaps because they became far and away the biggest beneficiaries of corporate money after McCain-Feingold became law.

by
Howard Nemerov

Bio

February 2, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Finance/Insurance/Real Estate

OpenSecrets.org says “the financial sector is far and away the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties.”

Top 10 corporations in this category include investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and financial service companies Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, all of whose employees contributed well over 50% to Democrats in 2008.

Before BCRA, Republicans saw campaign contributions from this sector more than triple, while Democrats’ receipts more than doubled. After BCRA, Democrats saw their contributions nearly double again, while Republican contributions barely beat inflation.

Finance/Insurance/Real Estate Campaign Contributions, Presidential Election Cycles
1992-2008 Pre-BCRA (1992-2000) BCRA (2000-8)
Democrats 319.1% 119.5% 91.0%
Republicans 296.6% 206.2% 29.5%
Total 307.7% 163.4% 54.8%

This sector contributed over $476 billion in 2008, with Democrats receiving 50.7%, up from 41.1% in 2000. In 2004, Democrats gained 11.9% over 2000 contributions, compared to Republicans 10.0%, increasing the Democrats’ share to 41.5%. In 2008, Democrats gained another 70.7% over 2004, compared to Republicans’ 17.7%. This may indicate an “Obama effect,” as independent voters’ growing dissatisfaction with the GOP swung them towards the Democrats, but it also shows Democrats’ growing ability to attract corporate employee contributions. Regardless of cause, Democrats’ campaign contributions overtook Republicans after BCRA.

Communications/Electronics

Top 10 corporations in this category include computer software maker Microsoft and media company Time Warner, whose employees contributed over 70% and 80%, respectively, to Democrats in 2008. Comcast employees contributed over 60% to Democrats.

This sector saw most of its campaign spending growth before BCRA, with Republicans benefiting more than Democrats. But after BCRA, Republican contributions decreased, while Democrats saw their share of this sector’s contributions increase from 53.6% in 2000, to 59.5% in 2004, to 70.2% in 2008.

Communications/Electronics Campaign Contributions, Presidential Election Cycles
1992-2008 Pre-BCRA (1992-2000) BCRA (2000-8)
Democrats 357.4% 228.4% 39.4%
Republicans 188.5% 321.7% -31.6%
Total 289.7% 266.0% 6.5%

Democrats derived an increasing advantage, despite slowing growth in this sector’s campaign spending after BCRA.

Miscellaneous Business

OpenSecrets.org defines the miscellaneous business sector as a “catch-all” category. Major contributors within the sector include retail sales; the food and beverage industry; the beer, wine, and liquor industry; chemical manufacturers; and a wide variety of business services and manufacturing companies.

This sector contributed over $278 million in 2008. It experienced more campaign spending growth before BCRA, with Republicans benefiting more than Democrats. However, after BCRA, Republican contributions lagged inflation, while the Democratic contributions more than doubled. As a result, Democrats saw their share of this sector’s contributions increase from 39.0% in 2000, to 41.4% in 2004, to 52.8% in 2008, showing a possible mix of increasing corporate support of Democrats plus the Obama effect.

Misc. Business Campaign Contributions, Presidential Election Cycles
1992-2008 Pre-BCRA (1992-2000) BCRA (2000-8)
Democrats 388.8% 130.2% 112.3%
Republicans 206.4% 152.3% 21.5%
Total 281.6% 143.2% 56.9%

Again, Democrats experienced a relative advantage after BCRA.

Since 2000, Democrats received consistently stronger support from the historically Republican sectors of agribusiness and defense, garnering 51.4% of the latter in 2008. In 2004, Democrats garnered a higher percentage of total contributions in 8 of 13 sectors, and in all 13 in 2008.

The Democratic Party has successfully attracted corporate employee contributions and become the party of business in its own right. Therefore, it’s likely that their sudden “concerns” over Citizens United are motivated by the desire to maintain campaign finance restrictions and continue benefiting from “business as usual.”

(For another view of campaign finance and the mystery of the “disappearing” soft money, see: “The fantasy of campaign finance reform.”)

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Former civilian disarmament supporter and medical researcher Howard Nemerov investigates the civil liberty of self-defense and examines the issue of gun control, resulting in his book Four Hundred Years of Gun Control: Why Isn’t It Working? He appears frequently on NRA News as their “unofficial” analyst and was published in the Texas Review of Law and Politics with David Kopel and Carlisle Moody.
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