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Financiers, Along with Lawyers, are Underwriting the Race for the White House, Watchdog Finds
WASHINGTON (April 18,
2007)--Lawyers and employees of the nation’s top investment firms are
the biggest underwriters of the 2008 presidential campaign, according to a
detailed analysis of the candidates’ first campaign finance reports by
the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Today the Center posted its exclusive analysis of the top industries and contributors backing each candidate on its award-winning website, OpenSecrets.org. The site’s presidential section also includes analyses of the geographic distribution of contributions and the candidates’ fundraising over time. Soon the Center plans to release a new feature on OpenSecrets, The Money Web, which uses social networking software to illustrate links between the presidential candidates and their donors.
The biggest-giving industry so far in ’08, lawyers and law firms, has already contributed at least $14.6 million to the 18 major Republican and Democratic candidates. The securities and investment industry ranks second behind the lawyers, with more than $8.6 million, but Wall Street firms dominate the list of top companies from across all industries.
“While candidates are collecting more money from small donors than ever before, this campaign is largely being financed right out of the gate by big money from big interests,” said Sheila Krumholz, the Center’s executive director. “A candidate’s message can’t reach the voters without tens of millions of dollars, which means that with their wallets, the few Americans who are big donors will be winnowing the field for the rest of us.”
Based on contributions
from employees, their families and political action committees, no company
has contributed more to the candidates than Goldman Sachs, the giant
investment firm. Goldman’s executives and employees donated nearly
$500,000 in the campaign’s first three months, followed by Citigroup,
UBS Americas, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Lehman
Brothers and Bear Stearns. Two hedge fund companies, Fortress Investment
Group—where John Edwards has served as an adviser—and SAC Capital,
come in at #9 and #10, further establishing hedge funds as major political
Republican Mitt Romney
and Democrat Hillary Clinton led their parties in money from the securities
and investment industry. Both collected about $1.7 million, with
Romney raising slightly more in CRP’s preliminary analysis.
The top law firm, and the
12th largest contributor among all companies, is Sidley Austin
LLP, whose employees have donated more than $190,000. More than 55 percent
of the firm’s contributions have gone to Barack Obama, who reportedly
met his wife at Sidley Austin’s Chicago office while she was an attorney
and he was a summer associate.
But it is Edwards, a former plaintiff’s attorney, who is the legal industry’s favorite candidate, by far. Edwards has taken in nearly $4.4 million from lawyers and their firms since January, or $1 out of every $3 he has raised. Clinton trails Edwards with about $2.8 million from attorneys.
Other top industries footing the bill for the presidential race so far include real estate ($5.9 million; top recipient: Romney), the entertainment industry ($2.4 million; top recipient: Clinton) and doctors and other health professionals ($2.2 million; top recipient: Clinton). Retired individuals have contributed almost as much as the investment industry—more than $8.3 million (with Romney leading the field).
All but about 1 percent of the money flowing to presidential candidates comes from individuals, whose contributions are limited to $2,300 for the primary election and another $2,300 for the general (provided the candidate makes it that far). Political action committees controlled by corporations, unions and interest groups play only a small role in presidential fundraising (which makes it easy for candidates Obama and Edwards to refuse their money). PACs, which can give up to $5,000 per election to federal candidates, are far more influential in congressional campaigns.
The presidential candidates’ biggest donors at this early stage tend to be people and companies with whom they have a personal connection, not surprisingly.
As previously noted, Obama and Edwards have leaned on firms to which they have professional connections. Romney’s top donors include Bain Capital, the Boston venture capital firm he founded, and Marriott International, the hotel company started by fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Rudy Giuliani’s law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, has given him more than $60,000. Chris Dodd, who chairs the Senate’s banking committee, has raised the bulk of his money from financial industries he regulates. And top donors to Bill Richardson include employees of New Mexico, where he is governor, plus those who work for the state’s university and a large real estate developer with a major project in Albuquerque.
“When you’re a candidate looking for a $2,300 check, you start with the people you know best and those who might owe you one. The question is: What will you owe them in return?” Krumholz, CRP’s director, said.
Researchers at the Center for Responsive Politics identified the top donors to the ’08 presidential race using the candidates’ Federal Election Commission reports covering Jan. 1 through March 31, which were due on Sunday, April 15. Compressing a process that normally takes three weeks or more into three days, CRP’s researchers fingerprinted tens of thousands of individual donors—a task only the Center undertakes on such a large scale. Matches among family members were made to associate unemployed spouses and children with the company and industry of their wage-earning family member.
If a donor gives more
than $200 to a candidate, their name, address, employer and occupation
must be provided to the FEC. The Center’s analysis, displayed in a
variety of ways on OpenSecrets.org, is based at this point on the
successful classification of about 70 percent of the candidates’
itemized contributions, which exceeded $112 million and 94,000
records—more than three times the number of donations after the
campaign’s first quarter four years ago. The Center’s researchers will
continue their analysis over the coming weeks, so figures are subject to
Race for the White House section of OpenSecrets.org is available at http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08.
About the Center for Responsive Politics
Center for Responsive Politics is the nation’s premier research group
tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public
policy. Founded in 1983, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center aims to create
a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more responsive
government. CRP’s award-winning Web site, OpenSecrets.org,
is the most comprehensive resource for campaign contributions, lobbying
data and analysis available anywhere. CRP relies on support from a
combination of foundation grants and individual contributions. The Center
accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade