portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

government | political theory selection 2004

In Tight Race, Big Donors Sagely Bet on Both Horses

What? Both candidates taking from the same corporate interests? Any chance of Kerry returning all that money that came from republicans?

Published on Wednesday, September 8, 2004 by Inter Press Service
by Emad Mekay

WASHINGTON -- Four of the 10 most lavish contributors to the George Bush and John Kerry presidential campaigns are the same financial services corporations, says a new analysis of campaign fundraising released today.

According to the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan think tank, Pres. Bush and his Democratic challenger now share nearly half of their biggest donors, suggesting that the companies are hoping to cement a friendly relationship with whoever wins the White House in November.

By historical standards, the race is too close to call. A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll released Tuesday showed Bush leading at 52 percent, Kerry at 45 percent and independent candidate Ralph Nader at one percent among likely voters.

However, Bush's lead was within the survey's error margin on Labour Day, the traditional start of the campaign's final leg.

"Conventional theories in campaign finance state that you always want to have money on the winning horse," said Alex Knot, one of the authors of the report. "If there are any favors that are granted for those that contribute, the investment of a couple hundred thousand dollars is nothing compared to the windfalls of billions in legislation."

Until this cycle, most of Kerry's top contributors had come from the telecommunications industry and law firms. Most of Bush's largest donors are financial corporations with executives who have pledged to raise money for the president's reelection.

"While the 2004 ballot is setting up to be one of the most divisive elections in history, campaign contributors to the candidates are looking more similar than ever," said the report.

"What we are seeing is a different trend in fundraising where financial organisations that once exclusively favoured Republicans are now also favouring Kerry," said Knot. "There are a few reasons why this could be taking place. One of the most intriguing theories is that these companies are hedging their bets."

Bush's top career patrons are financial powerhouses like Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc and Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Kerry's largest career donors are Harvard University, Time Warner and Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo.

The White House has repeatedly been criticised for the perception that it rewards corporate interests at the expense of ordinary Americans. The centre says donors have an interest in continuing that trend.

"The 10 largest donors to Bush during the cycle are all financial institutions," said Knot. "So obviously they care about or have an interest in some of the things that Bush has an interest in. Some of these could be the three tax cuts that Bush has put in place during his first term."

The largest of the cuts that would affect these corporations would be the cuts on capital gains and dividends, as many of these companies have a large amount of investment income.

Bush has also promised to make those cuts permanent and has floated the idea of privatising social security, a pension plan for the elderly, and investing the funds in the stock. market.

Companies still gave more money to Bush than they did to Kerry. Citigroup, for example, gave Kerry 169,254 dollars and Bush 246,645 dollars.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co gave Bush 486,125 while giving only 100,204 to Kerry, and Goldman Sachs Group gave the Republican campaign some 295,950 dollars while giving the Democratic camp only 127,750 dollars. Bush netted 368,900 from UBS AG Inc while Kerry received 138,700 dollars.

Knot explained the lion's share going to Bush on the grounds that Kerry spent a shorter period of time raising money as the official nominee of his party, and that Bush already has a record of being friendly to corporations.

According to the centre, these powerful companies are backing the election of already wealthy candidates. Financial disclosure forms show that the two contenders are millionaires, though none can use more than 50,000 dollars of his own money unless he opts out of federal matching funds.

Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry have a disclosed worth of as much as 747 million dollars, but the most that Kerry can personally lay claim to is 14.8 million dollars of those assets. The bulk of the fortune belongs to Heinz Kerry, though the two do hold some assets jointly, says the report.

The next wealthiest household belongs to Richard and Lynn Cheney, whose personal assets together amount to as much as 111.2 million dollars.

Kerry's running mate John Edwards discloses the upper-end of his family's wealth at 44.6 million dollars, and Bush rounds out the field with some 18.9 million dollars in assets.

Even third Party Candidate Ralph Nader has as much as 4.9 million dollars, and reportedly earned more than half a million dollars last year alone through speeches and other activities.

2004 Inter Press Service

The Center for Public Integrity  http://www.publicintegrity.org/default.aspx