Marketplace Scratch Pad

Well-timed contributions?

Scott Jagow Aug 26, 2009

There’s a new Internet tool for keeping track of when special interest groups give campaign money to members of Congress. Like, say, one day before a major vote?

The non-partisan, non-profit research group, MAPlight.org, has a new feature called “Money Near Votes.” It shows who gave what to whom in the days leading up to a specific vote in Congress. For example, you can see the money that came in right before an April vote on the credit card legislation. Marketwatch explains:

For instance, Rep. Addison Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, voted no on the Credit Card bill on April 30. He received $2,000 from the American Bankers Association on April 27, three days earlier, and $5,000 from the Credit Union National Association on April 29, the day before the vote. Both groups opposed the Credit Card bill…

Not everyone who took cash from the banking industry sided with it on the credit card bill. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, received $8,750 in eight industry contributions in the two weeks preceding the vote, but opted to approve the measure.

Frank’s relationship with the industry is telling. Like him, dozens of representatives actually took the money but still voted yes. The lack of influence also gets a cynic wondering: if the credit card bill was a layup, why did the industry plow all of this money into Congress at this stage? Favors down the road? Thanks for other votes?

Campaign contribution records don’t offer an obvious answer, but at least we found out where some of the double-digit interest and late charges are going.



MAPlight explains why it’s making this information available, in the Central Valley Business Times:

“The correlations we highlight between industry and union giving and legislative outcomes do not show that one caused the other, and we do not make this claim,” it says. “We do make the claim, however, that campaign contributions bias our legislative system. Simply put, candidates who take positions contrary to industry interests are unlikely to receive industry funds and thus have fewer resources for their election campaigns than those whose votes favor industry interests.”

Can you imagine what the timeline will look like for the votes on health care? We’ll delve into that tonight on Marketplace.

You might also want to check out this list from Open Secrets of the major donors of the last 20 years. What stood out to me was that of the top 20 giving organizations, almost all of them heavily favored Democrats.

Unions.

I also noticed that most banks and financial companies were very balanced in their giving, riding the fence between Democrats and Republicans.

Maybe you’ll find other things by looking through this stuff.

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