Boeing, GE Update House Donations After Backing Losers
The political action committee of Boeing Co. (BA) last year donated $3,000 to then-Representative Larry Kissell’s bid for re-election. Thirteen days after the North Carolina Democrat lost, the PAC cut a $1,000 check to Richard Hudson, the Republican who ousted him.
General Electric Co. (GE)’s PAC made five separate $1,000 donations to Republican Chip Cravaack during the Minnesotan’s first term in Congress. Two weeks after Cravaack lost, GE’s PAC gave $1,000 to Rick Nolan, the Democrat who defeated him.
Corporate PACs that bet wrong on the congressional elections wasted no time placing their money on the winners. At least eight corporate PACs that contributed to the losing candidate gave to the victor in the month following the 2012 elections, Federal Election Commission records show.
“Corporations tend to be very pragmatic in their political giving,” said Viveca Novak, editorial and communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington- based research group that tracks campaign donations. “They were giving to somebody who was in power and now they’re again giving to the new occupant of that seat. They’re not going to be helped by the loser.”
Former Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who co- authored the 2002 campaign-finance law that stopped corporations and unions from using their treasuries to aid political parties, said companies don’t care who prevails in elections as long as they’re with the winners when votes are being cast in the House and Senate.
“There’s a misconception that corporate money cares which party wins elections,” Feingold said. “The truth is, corporate money’s only loyalty is to its own benefit.”
Such contributions have an even greater impact at a time when others have closed their checkbooks for a while, said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based watchdog group.
“If you want to get noticed, now is the time when everybody has donor fatigue and there’s not another election for two years,” Allison said. “Being the first to have your foot in the door is one way to stand out.”
Chicago-based Boeing received $22.1 billion in federal contracts during the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2011, second only to Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) at $42.9 billion, according to BGOV200 Rankings, which lists companies based on the value of their federal contracts.
Beyond donating to incumbent re-election coffers, Boeing spent $12 million through Sept. 30 to lobby on federal spending bills, the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, relations with foreign countries, and other issues.
In addition to Hudson, Boeing’s PAC opened its checkbook for Texas Democrat Pete Gallego, giving him $2,000 on Nov. 19 after he defeated freshman Republican Quico Canseco. Canseco had received two $1,000 checks during the campaign.
Hudson also received $5,000 from the American Crystal Sugar Co. (ASCS) PAC on Nov. 27. Moorhead, Minnesota-based American Crystal’s PAC had given two $5,000 checks to Kissell earlier in 2012, the maximum donation to his campaign.
“When your goal is to have access and influence with elected officials, you have to give to the folks who are in the position to help you out,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, a Washington-based advocacy group that supports stronger campaign-finance laws.
Boeing’s Marcellus Rolle said the company PAC “supports legislators who share our views on issues of importance to the company.”
As does Boeing, General Electric augments its donations with a strong lobbying presence in Washington. Through Sept. 30, the company spent $15.6 million on lobbying, more than any other corporation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The 23rd biggest federal contractor, receiving $2.8 billion, GE weighed in on issues such as defense spending and rules governing patents, renewable energy and pollution.
Spokesman Seth Martin said Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE’s political contributions are determined by a PAC board.
Other companies also placed their bets on the winner after the race had been run.
Transportation giant CSX Corp. (CSX), a Jacksonville, Florida- based company, gave $1,000 to Democrat Kathy Hochul of New York during the campaign, and then contributed $1,000 nine days after the election to the Republican who defeated her, Chris Collins.
“I presume it is normal practice,” said Hochul.
Gary Sease of CSX said its PAC backs “candidates who share our views of the important economic and environmental role of railroads.”
Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)’s PAC, which gave $6,000 to Democratic incumbent Mark Critz during the campaign, contributed $5,000 last month to victorious Republican Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania. Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil, the largest U.S. oil company, spent $9.9 million to lobby during the first nine months of 2012 on issues such as taxes and the Keystone pipeline. Exxon Mobil is the 176th largest federal contractor, receiving $335 million.
“Exxon Mobil’s political action committee provides financial assistance to qualified candidates who support the common interest of Exxon Mobil employees and retirees as well as the corporation,” said Alan Jeffers, a spokesman.
Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ)’s PAC also followed the pattern, giving $2,000 to Rothfus after first giving $1,000 to Critz, federal records show. The PAC contributed $7,000 to Hochul before her loss, and $5,000 to Collins after his win. Likewise, Verizon’s PAC donated $2,000 to victorious Democrat John Delaney of Maryland on Nov. 16, the same amount it gave Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett during the campaign.
The 72nd largest U.S. contractor, Verizon received $967 million during the 12 months ending Sept. 30. The second-largest U.S. telephone company has spent $11.7 million through Sept. 30 to lobby on issues such as cybersecurity, privacy and health effects of wireless phones. A Verizon spokesman, Ed McFadden, declined to comment.
The Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from North Dakota, then-Representative Rick Berg, received $6,000 from Southern Co. (SO)’s PAC and $1,000 from the PAC of Delta Air Lines, both based in Atlanta, as well as $9,000 from Verizon’s PAC. Berg lost to former Democratic Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. Within a month after the election, Heitkamp got $5,000 from Southern’s PAC, $1,000 from Delta’s and $2,500 from Verizon’s.
Southern Co. spent $10.5 million to lobby during the first nine months of 2012, more than any other utility company, on topics including nuclear power legislation, tariffs and derivatives trading. Delta spent $2.1 million on issues such as airline customer service, aviation security and a European Union proposal to tax airplane emissions of foreign carriers.
Steve Higginbottom of Southern Co. had no immediate comment. A Delta spokesman, Trebor Banstetter, had no comment.
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