A team of 53 researchers, writers and editors at the Center for Public Integrity gathered and analyzed tens of thousands of pages of government data obtained from the Federal Election Commission, state campaign finance regulatory bodies, and federal agencies through the Freedom of Information Act, to provide the most in-depth analysis of the large donors behind those seeking the White House. The money race has its costs, the Center found:
- While he was governor of Texas, Bush relied on Enron and its then-chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay for more than just campaign contributions. When Bush needed help launching his education plan, Lay, through the auspices of a quasi-official advisory group called the Governor’s Business Council, pledged his support. When Bush wanted to start an internship program in the governor’s office, Lay followed through with the funding. And when Lay wanted changes to tort, tax or environmental law, Bush returned the favors.
- Bush, who has signaled an interest in Social Security privatization, and even appointed a commission that concluded in December 2001 that any reform of the New Deal program should “include a system of voluntary personal accounts,” numbers financial firms Merrill Lynch & Co. (his second most generous career patron), Credit Suisse First Boston (fifth), UBS Paine Webber (eighth) and Goldman Sachs Group (ninth) among his top ten patrons. All were members of a group called the Coalition for American Financial Security, which favors privatization—and the millions of individual stock market accounts (and brokerage fees to administer them) that would be created.
- In 1999, while he was CEO of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney wrote a letter to his predecessor in that office, Al Gore, opposing more stringent air standards. “Implementation of these standards,” he wrote to Gore, “would cause great harm to consumers, my own industry, and the U.S. economy and will still not deliver the promised significant enhancement of health protection to the American public.” As Vice President, Cheney played a lead role in shaping the administration’s energy policies, which critics charge will lead to greater pollution and lower air quality. In his letter, Cheney also called on Gore to address any new standards in “full and open debate”— an ironic request, given that the secrecy surrounding Vice President Cheney’s own energy policy task force generated an unprecedented lawsuit by the General Accounting Office and other suits that will soon be considered by the Supreme Court of the United States. For more on Cheney’s letter, see “Full and Open Debate“.
- While governor, Howard Dean pushed for utility contract provisions that aided the power companies, but cost Vermont families millions of dollars in skyrocketing rates. Vermont has the sixth highest utility rates in the country, due in part to a series of long-term contracts between its major power companies. After years of pushing for Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and the smaller utilities it held to absorb the excess costs of their expensive contracts, Dean’s Department of Public Service agreed to let ratepayers be billed for more than 90 percent of the excess costs—which could soar into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Central Vermont Public Service Corp. donated more than $10,000 to Dean’s Fund for a Healthy America PAC—a hefty contribution in a state that limits campaign contributions for statewide offices to $400.
- Securities and Exchange records show that Acxiom, a company that was seeking Homeland Security contracts, agreed to pay Gen. Wesley Clark hundreds of thousands of dollars for his help in persuading the government to buy the company’s wares. Clark was a registered lobbyist while he served as a military analyst on CNN, and was still a lobbyist when he declared his candidacy on Sept. 17, 2003.
- Rep. Richard Gephardt tried to lower taxes on alcohol at least five times over the years, much to the pleasure of his largest career patron, Anheuser Busch, which has given him more than $517,000 over the years.
- Senator John Kerry wrote letters to the FCC asking it to delay its spectrum auction, keeping in line with his brother’s law firm, which represents the telecommunications industry and has given the senator more than $210,000.
- After receiving hundreds of thousands of contributions from biotechnology companies, Senator Joseph Lieberman hired the industry’s top lobbyist for his staff and went on to introduce and co-sponsor bills for which this sector lobbied.
Source: Center For Public Integrity