What Drives the Elected Class? Money!
February 15, 2010 by Bob Livingston
The elected class no longer cares about you.
If there was ever any doubt about that reality it should have ended after the massacre in Massachusetts, where Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley for the United States Senate seat long held by the man known for both his driving and drinking prowess, Ted Kennedy.
One would think that election was the end of Obamacare. But on the heels of Brown’s win—in a campaign in which he ran specifically against the Obamacare healthcare bill—some Democrats continued to promise passage of a healthcare reform bill. And President Barack Obama signaled he wasn’t ready to drop it.
Democrats have threatened to use reconciliation to pass a healthcare bill—a process that would subvert the traditions of Congress but allow them to pass it without a Senate supermajority—despite the fact that 53.8 percent of the population opposes it.
So the message that Brown’s win in Massachusetts sent to Democrats wasn’t received. There has to be a reason, and there is. Just follow the money; because that’s the only thing the elected class cares about. Well, money and power; but with money comes the power.
In 2009, 13,741 registered lobbyists spent $3.47 billion lobbying members of Congress and federal agencies. That’s an increase of $1.7 million over the year before. In fact, lobbying dollars have more than doubled since 2000 when $1.55 billion was spent by 12,449 registered lobbyists.
In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been a major beneficiary of that largess, as have other Democrats and Republicans in leadership positions. But even back-benchers do well.
Still one wonders why Pelosi has been so strident in her efforts to push through a bill that is so unpopular, and is probably unconstitutional as well. A look at her major contributors sheds a little light on what drives her.
Health professionals have contributed $141,200 to her campaign coffers over the last year. Lawyers contributed $61,650, securities and investment firms $54,900, building trade unions $54,500 and miscellaneous financial institutions another $50,800 during the same period.
A legal firm representing healthcare and real estate interests was the largest single contributor over that time, buying her services for $20,250. The American Dental Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Nurses Association and the American Postal Workers each gave $10,000.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) received more money from electric utilities ($124,000) than from health professionals ($117,460). But he also took in large sums from lawyers and law firms ($121,457), lobbyists ($95,993) and hospitals and nursing homes ($89,000). Top individual contributors were Verizon Communications at $26,800; Kindred Healthcare at $22,500; Norfolk Southern at $18,000; Comcast Corp. at $14,000; and the lobbying firm of Patton Boggs LLP at $13,400.
Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) was bought and paid for by health professionals with a $84,952 contribution. Pharmaceuticals and health products was his third-largest contributor at $70,819, right behind electric utilities at $74,000. Lawyers gave him $67,450 and securities and investment firms gave him $53,342 for his services.
Top individual contributors were RLJ Companies, a holding company representing a number of businesses ($17,000) and videography company Crawford Group ($14,800). Verizon, General Electric and Emergent Bio Solutions gave Clyburn in excess of $10,000 each.
It’s more lucrative to be a Senator. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) raked in more than $1.7 million from lawyers and law firms. In fact, health professionals gave him a piddling $479,825, making one wonder why he is willing to sacrifice his seat at the alter of healthcare reform (he trails in his re-election bid 47-39 according to the latest polls).
Of course, securities and investment firms and gambling interests are keeping him flush with cash. Combined they’ve given him more than $1.27 million as an industry. Top individual contributors are MGM Mirage at $153,400, the law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg $88,800, Harrah’s Entertainment $81,600, the law firm Girardi & Keese $76,400 and Stations Casinos $71,200.
Majority whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is really well-liked by the lawyers. They gave him more than $2 million last year. Securities and investment firms, real estate interests, the pro-Israel lobby and other lobbyists combined to give him more than $1.8 million. Four of his top five individual contributors were law firms which gave him more than $249,000, with United Airlines pitching in $46,175.
For Conference Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.), health professionals were her fourth largest contributor, giving her $214,150. Lawyers and law firms provided her with $440,146 and lobbyists another $383,619, followed by retiree groups at $283,530 and various political action committees (PAC) $202,800.
ActBlue, a Democrat internet PAC, was her largest single contributor, giving her $128,224. Boeing Co., Amgen Inc., Weyerhaeuser Co. and Microsoft combined to give her another $170,000.
Republicans are no better. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) raked in $92,270 from insurance companies, $80,550 from electric utilities, $67,200 from securities and investment companies, $63,450 from big pharma and $59,507 from retiree organizations. His top individual contributors were American Financial Group $38,400, American Electric Power $19,450 and Walt Disney Co. $12,000, New York Life Insurance and the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons gave him $10,000 each.
Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) took in $150,250 from securities and investment firms, $145,497 from real estate interests, $131,950 from insurance companies, $89,425 from retiree organizations and $88,700 from law firms. Top individual contributors are the holding company McAndrews & Forbes $18,700; financial services company Interface Group $14,400; tobacco products company Altria $13,400; the lobbying firm McGuire, Woods, et al $13,000; and Dominion Resources $12,600.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is well-liked by securities and investment firms to the tune of $1.14 million. Lawyers and law firms contributed $915,683; retiree organizations $899,055; health professionals $722,500; and real estate interests $718,380.
His top five individual contributors were Kindred Healthcare $108,200; the financial services firm UBS AG $98,450; Elliott Management $88,500; Peabody Energy $73,600; and FMR Corp. (the parent of Fidelity) $66,400.
For Minority Whip Jon Kyle (R-Ariz.), retiree groups were the major contributor at $1.065 million. They were followed by real estate interests at $794,393; lawyers and law firms at $676,874; health professionals at $649,383; and republican/conservative causes $430,667. Top individual contributors were the PAC Club for Growth $155,753; law firms Snell & Wilmer $52,650 and Squire, Sanders & Dempsey $52,250; event marketer VIAD $48,300; and Tuttle-Click Automotive Group $41,600.
Conference Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) got his biggest contributions from lawyers, taking in $396,900. Real estate interests, retiree organizations, leadership PACs and securities and investment firms combined to give him another $1.23 million. Top individual contributors were the law firm Baker, Donelson et al $34,150; Hercules Holding $29,250, Regions Financial $26,800; Pilot Corp. $26,500; and the law firm Waller, Lansden et al $26,100.
In other words, Washington is controlled by corporatocracy. That’s why the legislative deals are done in secret, behind closed doors. They don’t want you to know that.
With such vast sums of money exchanging hands in Washington D.C., is it any wonder the elected class have grown arrogant and unresponsive to the needs of their constituents? They’re convinced they can spend any amount of money, steal any freedom, impose any onerous regulation or create yet another bloated bureaucracy and you will like it. If not, they have enough dough in their pockets to pay for enough glitzy television advertisements to convince you that whatever they are up to is for your own good.
But their constituents today aren’t the constituents of yesterday. The electorate is becoming more informed, and many who sat silently on the sidelines grumbling about what was going on in Washington are becoming more vocal. They are even marching on Washington to express themselves.
Still, the elected class tries to ignore the increasingly vocal constituency. But while corporatists, lobbyists, lawyers and PACs feed the campaign coffers, it’s the voters who pull the levers in the voting booths.
So here’s a warning to the elected class: Ignore us at your peril.
(Campaign finance information from OpenSecrets.org. More campaign finance information on these and other members of Congress are also available there.)