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And the winner is ...

Some Americans Spoke Louder Than Others ...

On Election Day,
Some Americans
$poke Louder
Than Others



American voters have spoken — although some have spoken louder than others. They are the super-rich, who contributed to both major presidential candidates to protect their gold-plated lifestyles.

Take, for example, the wealthy who call Manhattan’s fashionable East Side (New York City’s 10021 Zip Code) home. They gave heavily to both George W. Bush and Al Gore. So did the Inside-the-Beltway elite. The Washington, D.C. metro area gave more to "outsider" Bush and to Gore than any other spot on the map. The major party candidates both got big bucks from Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta, too.

Actually, Bush and Gore got hefty contributions from wherever there are corporations, stockbrokers, banks and high-powered law firms.

The Republican and Democratic contenders both received contributions from many of the same sources: Morgan, Stanley, Dean Witter & Co., Goldman Sachs Group and Ernst & Young, to name a few.

As of last month, the firm of Ernst & Young was Gore’s biggest contributor, with $132,625. The global financial services company was also Bush’s fifth largest contributor but gave the Republican candidate more — $174,449.


The single largest contributor to the Bush effort was MBNA America Bank, with a whopping $233,425. MBNA Corp. bills itself as "the world’s largest independent credit card issuer;" it also contributed to the Democratic Senatorial campaign.

Among Bush’s top contributors were lawyers and law firms, real estate interests, securities and investment firms, health professionals, insurance companies, general contractors and construction services.

Among Gore’s top contributors were lawyers and law firms, real estate interests, securities and investment firms, health professionals, insurance companies, general contractors and construction services.

Sound familiar?

High-tech money also poured into the 2000 campaign right along with contributions from traditional sectors. Microsoft employees, including chief operating officer Robert Herbold, were prominent early contributors to the Bush campaign; they had given a total of $26,000 by February. Then again, Gore had received $18,250 from Microsoft employees in the same period.


According to the latest figures, Bush raised $184,228,804. Among the most energetic fundraisers was the giant Houston law firm of Vinson and Elkins, which specializes in advising the gas, oil and electricity business. Another was Fred Webber, president of the Chemical Manufacturers of America, who organized Chemical Industry Executives for Bush.

"Al Gore has already raised more money than any Democratic presidential candidate in history, some of it from the very industries he says he opposes," noted the Labor Party Press in November (see also: Labor Party Press, May, 2000: "Cesspooling Their Dollars"). The newspaper pointed to Gore’s sizeable contributions from the health care establishment and insurance, drug and energy companies. According to the latest available figures, Gore had raised $133,113,452.

(In contrast, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader had raised not quite $6 million.)

These figures give credence to predictions in the summer of 1999 that this would be most expensive presidential campaign ever. In the first half of 1999 Bush had raised more than $50 million — more than any other presidential candidate in history in that short time span. The biggest donors were lawyers and law firms which gave more than $1 million, among them firms advising energy corporations.


Concerns about the power of big money in elections aren’t new, although neither is indifference on the part of those who benefit. Founding Father John Jay, who thought the Electoral College was a neat idea, had no objection to the influence of the wealthy. "The people who own the country ought to run it," he argued.

"There are only two important things in politics. The first is money and I can’t really remember the second," said Marcus Hanna (1837-1904).

He would have known. Rallying fellow capitalists in defense of big business against the political threat posed by workers and farmers, he raised the unheard of amount of $10 million from tycoons to assure the election of Republican William McKinley in 1896. (Hanna himself owned coal and iron mines, shipping and shipbuilding firms, a bank, a newspaper and a street-railway system.)

The blatant unfairness of big money’s role in elections resulted in a ban on corporate contributions nearly a century ago. Well, kind of.

After the Watergate scandal of 1972, federal election laws limited individual donors to a maximum of $1,000 to any given candidate. But candidates of both major parties have been very adept in avoiding the limits.


Big companies "bundle" individual donations. Once top executives, their spouses and children and assorted flunkies have each given a grand, the contributions begin to look like serious political money. Also, industry lobby groups can donate up to $5,000 per election to a candidate through PACs.

("Soft money" allows companies to make large donations provided the money doesn’t go to the candidate but to the political parties for "party building activities" and voter education. "Today, corporations, unions and wealthy individuals give unlimited — I repeat unlimited — contributions of soft money to the political parties," says Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.)

The Labor Party calls for an end to corporate domination of elections, proposing a financial cap on what candidates can spend, full public financing of elections, and fully financed equal media time for candidates with proven popular support.

With real reform, perhaps some voters wouldn’t speak that much louder than others.

UE News - 11/00

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