Incoming Freshmen in Congress Get Quick Infusion of Corporate Cash
If you're a company with business before Congress, it's never too soon to get into the good graces of the newly-elected lawmakers.
No sooner had the 2014 election ended than some of the nation's biggest trade organizations and businesses moved to give campaign contributions to incoming members of Congress through their political action committees—the political funds known in Washington argot as PACs.
These fast-acting groups include the National Association of Realtors, which sent more money ($3.6 million) to candidates in the 2014 election than any other PAC, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The realtors' group has substantial policy interests, lobbying Congress and federal agencies on issues including disaster relief, housing finance, immigration and tax policy.
The realtors' PAC sent $5,000 on Nov. 17 to Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton, who defeated Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, according to Federal Election Commission reports. The realtors' PAC sent $9,000 to Pryor in four increments during the 2014 campaign, including $5,000 on Aug. 25. The same day as the Cotton donation, the realtors' PAC sent $5,000 to the leadership PAC of Colorado Republican Cory Gardner, who beat Democratic incumbent Mark Udall. A leadership PAC is a political fund that a member of Congress uses to make political donations to other candidates. The realtors' PAC sent $6,000 to Udall's campaign before the election.
Nine days after the election, Honeywell International's PAC sent $2,500 to Florida Democrat Gwen Graham after she unseated Republican incumbent Steve Southerland. Honeywell, a manufacturer of fighter-jet parts and thermostats, sent $2,500 to Southerland in September 2013. It sent $5,000 to North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis a week after he ousted Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan, who received $1,500 from Honeywell's PAC in February 2013.
The American Bankers Association made 15 political donations to incoming members of Congress, including Graham and Tillis, within eight days after the election. The bankers' PAC gave $10,000 to Hagan before the 2014 election. North Carolina, a banking hub, is home to the headquarters of Bank of America Corp.
Blue Cross Blue Shield's PAC also pivoted to refill Tillis's coffers after previously aiding Hagan's re-election campaign. The insurance company's PAC sent Tillis a $5,000 debt retirement donation on Nov. 24.
Goldman Sachs sent debt retirement donations to Cotton and Georgia Republican David Perdue two weeks after they won their Senate races. Goldman's PAC donated to Pryor three times during the 2014 campaign, including as recently as Oct. 15. It also donated to Cotton before he announced his Senate campaign, in his capacity as a member of the House.
Clearly, political contributions remain the currency of doing business in Washington.