Auto Industry Campaign Donations Posted by: MichaelW
on Monday, December 15, 2008
When Corporation A gives umpteen million dollars to Party X, the typical conclusion is that Party X is in the pocket of Corporation A. That is, so long as X = Republican.
Last week, the L.A. Timespondered in amazement that political campaign contributions from the Big 3 go predominantly to Republicans, and yet it is Republicans who killed their much needed bailout. No matter that the last part is false. The LAT just can't seem to grasp how it is that special interests aren't getting their money's worth:
By standing in the way of an auto industry bailout, GOP senators appear to have bitten the hand that fed them.
Over the last decade, General Motors has given $1.50 to Republican candidates for every $1 it has given to Democrats. That same pattern has been followed by Chrysler and Ford, which year after year have favored the right side of the aisle, sometimes by more than a 3-to-1 ratio in dollar terms.
Since 1990, the auto industry as a whole — including suppliers, dealers and manufacturers — has cut $100 million in checks to Republicans, compared with just $34 million to Democrats.
On Thursday night, the carmakers discovered just how little loyalty that investment strategy had bought them.
Efforts to get through even a watered-down version of the $14-billion aid package were stymied by Republican senators, many of whom contend that GM and Chrysler — the most troubled U.S. automakers — should simply go bankrupt.
You'd almost think that congressmen are supposed to vote how the monied interests direct them to. At least that what the LAT seems to think. Personally, I always thought it was a sign of integrity when politicians voted in a way that ran counter to the interests of their campaign coffers. But apparently that's not so.
What many will notice first is that, for the most recent election cycle, the Big 3 gave mostly to Democrats. That shouldn't be surprising since businesses tend to give more money to those in power, or expected to be in power, rather than choosing one party and sticking with it.
The other striking data from the chart are the UAW contributions. Over the past four cycles, the UAW not only gave more money overall than the Big 3 combined, it filled the campaign coffers of the Democrats by an amazing (yet unsurprising) 99-1 margin. With that much political muscle, it's hard to understand how the unions can possibly be depicted as the weaker party when it comes to bargaining power. However, if you thought those lopsided campaign donations would raise any suspicions at the LAT, you'd be wrong:
This year, for the first time on record, Detroit's spending slightly favored Democrats. But since 2000, overall spending by the Big Three has steered 61% of contributions, or $7.2 million, to Republicans, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsible Politics.
Democrats, meanwhile, have looked to the United Auto Workers for support. Since 2000, the union has given $12.5 million to Democrats compared with only $94,540 to Republicans.
Got that? Almost twice as much money has gone to the Democrats, and yet it is the Republicans who are under scrutiny in this article because they didn't do what their political benefactors wanted them to.
"It's highly doubtful that political giving ever played a factor in an individual member's position," GM spokesman Greg Martin said.
But on Capitol Hill, the cold calculus of money is never too far from any issue.
A study released Thursday by the Center for Responsive Politics suggested that in the House of Representatives, where the bailout passed this week, there was a direct correlation between votes and campaign cash: Those who voted in favor of the plan received, on average, 8% more money from the auto industry than those who did not.
In the Senate, other forces may have been at play.
Some of the loudest opponents to helping Detroit were senators whose states are home to car factories of foreign brands, including Sen. Richard C. Shelby (D-Ala.), who has Mercedes, Hyundai and Honda plants in his state but no Big Three facilities.
At the eleventh hour, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) put forth a bill that sought to wrest new concessions from the United Auto Workers as well as from corporate bondholders. He has received $234,860 from the auto industry throughout his career, but Tennessee is also home to several Nissan plants and the Japanese automaker's U.S. headquarters.
Notice the sentence I bolded above, and specifically note what you're not being told: i.e. just who those Representatives that voted for the bailout were. In order to further cloud the issue, "the auto industry" is named as the donor of campaign funds, without separating out the carmakers from the UAW. Obviously that is because far more Democrats voted for the bailout than Republicans, and Democrats receive far more money from the vaguely-named "auto industry" than Republicans do. Any such clarifications would ruin the narrative, however, that Republicans are mean, selfish, corruptible, and disloyal.
The question begged by the article, and yet never asked or explored, is how the UAW-backed Democrats have responded to the bailout. Over the past eight years their party has raked in over $12.5 Million from the union, and the Democrats have vociferously gone to bat for them on the bailout. While their loyalty to their benefactors may be beyond reproach, isn't their loyalty to the American people looking a bit strained? How does delivering exactly what the UAW wants, despite what the majority of the American people deem desirable, square with the commitment of Democratic congressmen to represent The People? Could there possibly be anything newsworthy to the fact that Ron Gettelfinger has basically used the Democrats like well-trained seals in a Congressional three-ringed circus in order to benefit his members, and regardless of what the consequences are for the Big 3, much less the American taxpayers?
The answers to those questions might make good news indeed, but don't count on reading anything of the sort in the LAT. They're still too busy scratching their heads over those disloyal Republicans.
Shocker shocker shocker! Do you mean that the unions helped Democrats and now want something for their hard work stripping their workers against their will of their hard-earned money? Is that possible? Did I hear that right?
Sheesh. And here I thought Obama was going to change things. I must have been listening too much to MSDNC during the campaign.
I want to ask a more basic fundamental question. Why in the F do we allow for profit corporations to make political donations at all? Now can that possibly be of any good to the public interest? How is it in the fiduciary interest of the stockholders?
Funny that we have had so many campaign finance reforms and no one has addressed this.