Monday, November 26, 2007


Big contributors to GOP reap big post-election rewards
By Jim Drinkard, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - Just six months into a new term for
President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress,
some of their heaviest donors are scoring victories on
the legislative and regulatory fronts.
From rewrites of the laws governing bankruptcy and
class-action lawsuits to relief for oil, timber and
tobacco interests, GOP supporters who gave millions of
dollars last year are reaping decisions worth billions
from a Congress with more Republicans.

"Clearly, the election outcome has helped," says Bruce
Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce. "We are heading in the right direction. A
lot more has been done by this time in a new session
than usual."

While much public attention has been focused on Bush's
sputtering effort to sell an overhaul of Social
Security, legislation long sought by the GOP and its
business allies have been enacted with bipartisan
support. In February, Congress passed and Bush signed
a bill that sharply limits class-action lawsuits. The
savings will likely come to several billion dollars a
year, says Russ Sutter of Tillinghast-Towers Perrin,
an actuarial firm that studies tort costs.

The business sector that includes manufacturing and
retail was among top GOP donors last election cycle.
It directed three of every five political dollars to
Republicans--almost $121 million, according to the
non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

There was a similar partisan tilt in political giving
by the finance industry, which won passage in April of
a law making it harder to erase debts by declaring
bankruptcy. Credit card companies and banks sought the
change as a way to collect more debts.

The finance sector gave nearly $195 million to the GOP
in the 2004 elections. And 105 of Bush's 548 elite
fundraisers--those who raised $100,000 or more--were
from the world of finance, making it his biggest base
of top-dollar support, at $34 million.

"Many of the traditional business supporters are
really getting the agenda they wanted, and it seems to
be speeding up," says Larry Noble, director of the
Center for Responsive Politics, which studies the
impact of money on politics.

Still to come: Congress is pushing to complete an
energy bill. Business interests want limits on
liability for water contamination caused by MTBE, a
fuel additive designed to reduce auto emissions, and
oil companies seek to open the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge to drilling. The Senate passed its
version Tuesday.

Bush supporters also have had good luck outside the
legislative arena:

--Justice Department lawyers this month abruptly
scaled back their request for a penalty in the
government's lawsuit against tobacco companies. Rather
than the 25-year, $130 billion smoking cessation
program their own expert had recommended, they are
asking for a $14 billion remedy. The tobacco industry
favored Republicans three-to-one over Democrats last
year, giving $2.7 million to the party and its

The Justice Department's Office of Professional
Responsibility is looking into whether politics
influenced the decision.

--After Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman
William Donaldson resigned under fire from business
groups who complained about overzealous regulation,
Bush replaced him with someone with a pro-corporate
record: Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif.

"It's hard to imagine somebody with a more nakedly
deregulatory agenda," says William Lerach, a trial
lawyer who has brought shareholder lawsuits against
corporations accused of securities fraud. Securities
and investment firms gave $47.8 million to Republicans
last election.

--The administration last month reversed a ban on road
construction, timber harvesting, mining and energy
development on undeveloped national forest land. The
government also has expanded oil and gas development
on federal lands, including areas in New Mexico and

Energy and natural resources interests gave $39.3
million to the GOP last year, three times the amount
given to Democrats.

Election Campaign Spending:

The top 10 corporate donors to 2006 California ballot initiatives are responsible for half the money given to ballot initiatives :

Philip Morris USA Inc. - $30,420,081

Chevron Corporation - $30,250,000

Aera Energy (ExxonMobile & Shell) - $24,620,838

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company - $22,781,513CA

Hospitals Committee On Issues, Sponsored By CAHHS- $9,916,673

Occidental Oil And Gas Corporation - $9,350,000

U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. - $2,121,799

California Alliance For Jobs Rebuild California Committee - $1,800,000

Plains Exploration & Production Company - $1,250,000

Commonwealth Brands, Inc. - $1,250,000

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