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GOP backers beware

Marketplace Staff Oct 31, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: If the chips wind up falling the way Democrats are hoping they will next Tuesday, one or maybe both houses of Congress will change hands. Commentator Jeff Birnbaum says new congressional leaders would almost certainly have some industries in their sights.

JEFF BIRNBAUM: Drug and oil companies, beware. Insurers, utilities, manufacturers and home builders, watch your backs. If the Democrats take the House and maybe even the Senate next week, they’ll be holding you all accountable for excessive loyalty to the Republican Party.

After all, you’ve been showering the bulk of your campaign contributions on Republican candidates and causes for years.

On the other hand, labor unions, trial lawyers, and environmental groups have given very heavily to Democrats, so they’ll see their legislative fortunes soar if the D’s take over from the R’s.

Now I’m not saying that money buys legislation. Political scientists debate endlessly whether political donations instigate congressional action, or if organized interests just naturally send their cash to the lawmakers and the parties that champion their causes.

It really doesn’t matter. No one disputes that the best way to predict which industries are close to which political parties is to track their patterns of giving.

That’s why it should be no surprise that Democrats are planning to take away some of the billions of dollars of drilling subsidies that the oil companies got from the Republican Congress.

Nor should anyone be shocked that a Democratic Congress would try to repeal the part of the Medicare prescription drug plan that prevents the government from demanding competitive bidding from the drug companies.

Then again, labor unions would have a much better shot at getting an increase in the minimum wage. Trial lawyers won’t have to worry about restrictions on lawsuits, and environmentalists will get more money for biofuels research.

President Bush could dust off his veto pen and prevent Democrats from getting everything that well-heeled constituents want, of course. But that won’t stop them from trying — and that will be a major change.

RYSSDAL: Jeff Birnbaum is a columnist for The Washington Post.

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