PACs Still Favoring Democrats

Posted October 28, 2010 at 2:08pm

Recent political giving from corporations, unions and trade groups has continued to tilt toward Democrats, despite polls predicting major Republican gains on Capitol Hill after the midterm elections.

At the end of this year’s third quarter, PACs had given 59.8 percent of their donations to Democrats, according to a CQ MoneyLine analysis of recently filed reports with the Federal Election Commission. That is slightly down from the cumulative totals after the second quarter, when Democrats collected 61.4 percent of the contributions from these interests.

Most sectors continued to favor the majority party, but not those in the energy, finance and insurance, manufacturing and real estate industries.

Bill Allison, editorial director for the Sunlight Foundation, said it is not surprising that more PAC dollars are still going to the Democrats. Most of the companies and interest groups keep to the very traditional giving policy of favoring incumbents who they currently do business with, he said.

“Generally speaking, they are thinking of today, not tomorrow,” he said.

But PACs may be now “hedging their bets,” in anticipation of power change on Capitol Hill, Allison said. More dramatic shifts in giving will likely occur in the fourth quarter, which will not be disclosed until early next year, he said.

The current figures, which are through the end of September, are the last PAC giving disclosures before Tuesday’s elections. Overall, these PACs have given $199.3 million to Democrats and $133.9 million to Republicans.

Among the various sectors, organized labor predictably gave the highest percentage, 93 percent, to Democrats. Legal groups gave 72 percent of their donations to Democrats while health care stakeholders gave the party 59 percent of their contributions. Democrats drew 56 percent of the donations from communications and technology firms and 57 percent from the defense industry.

But business and energy interests, which have opposed much of the Democrats’ legislative agenda, were pumping their money into Republican coffers. In the third quarter alone, the finance and insurance sector gave almost $1.6 million more to Republicans than Democrats. The GOP also received about $938,000 more from energy and natural resources interests, $880,000 more from business and retail services and $813,000 more from real estate and construction industry.

A number of companies and trade groups were actively trying to bolster GOP candidates and Republican incumbents who may be in line to head influential committees.

For example, in August the American Bankers Association made a $5,000 contribution to the leadership PAC of Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who as the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, is in line to be the panel’s next chairman.

Also in August, Exxon Mobil Corp. contributed to a number of Republicans running for Senate, including Marco Rubio (Fla.), Dino Rossi (Wash.), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) The oil giant also gave $2,500 to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a vocal backer of the tea party movement.

Alex Knott contributed to this story.