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Study: Money Follows Party In Power


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 25) -- A new study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics documents what the watchdog group says was an historic shift in patterns of political contributions that followed the Republican Party's capture of Congress in 1994.

The report -- "The Big Picture: Money Follows Power Shift on Capitol Hill" -- shows how political giving follows the party in power.

When Democrats controlled Congress during 1993-94, 51 percent of all individual and political action committee (PAC) contributions to federal candidates from business interests went to Democrats, with Republicans pocketing 49 percent, according to the study.

But with the GOP in control during 1995-96, 63 percent of all business PAC and individual contributions flowed to the Republicans, the study found.

In 1993-94, business PACs gave slightly more to Democrats than Republicans, but Republicans collected nearly 70 percent of all business PAC money in 1995-96, the study says. The GOP held a narrower 54-46 percent advantage over Democrats in raising soft money from business interests, reflecting aggressive White House fund-raising efforts, the study's authors contend.


"The abrupt flip-flop of business contributions is clear proof that money follows power," Kent C. Cooper, the center's executive director, said in a statement. "Had ideology or philosophy been the primary motive for earlier business contributions, we would not have seen this sudden shift. But we now know that at least 20 percent of the earlier business contributions to Democrats were pragmatic business decisions, not financial support motivated by sympathy for the candidates' political views. Business contributors understand that those in power control the agenda for setting the policies that impact their bottom lines."

The study, released today, was based on a computer-assisted examination of more than 1.2 million individual contributions of at least $200 and 230,000 PAC contributions to federal candidates and political parties. Whenever possible, researchers classified the donation to reflect either the political action committee's interest or the occupation or employer of the donor.

The study puts a final price tag of about $2.2 billion on the 1996 election, the most expensive in American history, the center says. Business interests made $653.4 million in soft money, PAC and individual contributions. That was more than 11 times the $58.1 million that labor contributed and 19 times the $34.3 million contributed by donors the center classifies as ideological.

Sixty percent of all business contributions went to Republicans, 93 percent of all labor contributions went to Democrats, and 52 percent of all ideological contributions went to Republicans.

Other highlights of "The Big Picture" report include:

  • A breakdown of what it cost on average to win a House or Senate seat in 1996;
  • The top 100 overall contributors;
  • A ranking of the metropolitan areas that gave the most money;
  • An analysis of spending by 1996 presidential candidates; and
  • Profiles of each industry or interest group's contribution patterns.

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