"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance"

--James Madison--

"The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries, but between authoritarians and libertarians"

--George Orwell--

Heavy Hitters

First posted at The Smirking Chimp, May 22, 2010.

I hear it all of the time. "The CorporationsTM" own both political parties. They buy the elections, all of which are apparently rigged (why does anyone have to waste money on campaign ads for a rigged election, anyway?).
Campaign contributions are a matter of public record, but the various records are scattered far and wide. Fortunately, our friends over at Open Secrets do a pretty good job of aggregating the numbers from all of the various sources.
They maintain a list of 100 organizations and corporations that they call "Heavy Hitters". These are the 100 biggest campaign contributors. They also keep tabs on how much each one gives to each party and their candidates.
For 2010 (and the rankings are about the same for the last few election cycles), these are the top 10 donors to the Democratic Party and their candidates:
1. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ($2.2M)
2. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees ($1.8M)
3. American Association For Justice ($1.8M)
4. Teamsters Union ($1.5M)
5. American Federation of Teachers ($1.4M)
6. Machinists and Aerospace Worker's Union ($1.3M)
7. Laborer's Union ($1.3M)
8. AT&T ($1.2M)
9. Carpenter's and Joiner's Union ($1.1M)
10. United Food and Commercial Worker's Union ($1.1M)

It seems that right-wingers who claim that the Democratic Party is "owned by the unions" are actually closer to the truth. 8 of the top 10 contributors to Democratic races are unions, who put a lot of money and effort into getting candidates on the ballot and elected.
One of the other two is an organization that lobbies to protect 7th Amendment rights. One is, in fact, a corporation. Which gives more money to the Republicans than to the Democrats. In fact, they're the Republican Party's top contributor:
1. AT&T ($1.3M)
2. American Banker's Association ($984K)
3. National Association of Realtors ($650K)
3. Citigroup ($440K)
4. Pfizer ($427K)
5. National Automotive Dealer's Association ($414K)
6. National Rifle Association
7. Altria Group
8. National Association of Homebuilders
9. National Association of Beer Wholesalers (who knew?)
10. American Medical Association.
Not exactly the same list, eh? Corporations and business lobbies all.
Of course, nothing is that simple. But if you just scratch the surface a bit, some of the stereotypes of campaign finance start falling.
There are politicians who care more about their constituents than about business interests (the name Kucinich seems to come up a lot, but don't get me started on that). Just because they don't deliver your personal agenda on a silver platter overnight doesn't mean that they are deaf to your interests.
Nobody gets their own personal government. Not even "The CorporationsTM".