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POLITICS: Campaigns

Corporate America rooting for (or betting on?) a Democratic Senate

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Timothy P. Carney,Campaign Finance,2014 Elections,Campaigns,Terri Lynn Land,Gary Peters,Bruce Braley,Joni Ernst

With Democrats supporting a massive importation of cheap labor and increased subsidies for U.S. exporters, it's no surprise that the political action committees of U.S. corporations and their trade associations are trying to keep the Democrats in control of the Senate.

Paul Blumenthal, the industrious money-in-politics reporter at the Huffington Post, crunched the numbers on the most competitive Senate races and found Democrats dominating 3-to-1 on corporate PAC cash:

A review of Federal Election Commission records by The Huffington Post found that PACs affiliated with corporations and trade associations have given $9 million combined to the Democratic Senate candidates in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina in this electoral cycle. Their Republican challengers have received just $2.9 million from that category of PACs.

This, of course, clashes with the standard Democratic rhetoric and mainstream media conventional wisdom. Check the website of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. They rail that "It’s time to fight back and ensure that the voices of ordinary Americans are not drowned out by corporate cash."

In Arkansas, for instance, the DSCC attacks Rep. Tom Cotton for backing "special interests in Washington." In Michigan, the DSCC attacks GOP nominee Terri Lynn Land for pushing the agenda of "billionaires."

So, why are Democrats winning the corporate cash race? Blumenthal discusses the matter pretty well.

First, incumbents always outraise challengers. Incumbents can use (I would argue abuse) their official roles to extract wealth from companies. See, for instance, Sen. Kay Hagan using Export-Import Bank subsidies to businesses in her state as fundraising and campaign platforms. Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer have been explicit that they plan to use their support for Ex-Im's corporate subsidies as a fundraising tool. It's working.

Also, incumbents tend to win, and corporate PACs often just bet on the favorite, so as to curry favor with who will be in charge.

This "betting on the favorite" factor, Blumenthal notes, explains why some contributions are shifting towards the GOP candidates in recent months, as odds of a GOP takeover increases.

But look at the open-seat races.

Here's the corporate cash situation in Iowa, where Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, faces Republican Joni Ernst:


 

And here's the corporate cash in Michigan:


 

(Thanks to Blumenthal for sending me these numbers.)

These are open seats. Ernst, no opponent of corporate welfare (she backs the ethanol mandate and Export-Import Bank), is gaining. But still, it looks like corporate cash, so far, is pushing for a Democratic Senate. This ought to complicate the Democrats populist rhetoric. But it won't.

Again, check out Blumenthal's report here.

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