Corporate Contributions have Surged for New Republican Leaders in House

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The Washington Post

Corporate Contributions have Surged for New Republican Leaders in House

by
Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, received more than $400,000 from the energy and mining industries, a leap of nearly 50 percent from 2008. (Melina Mara / The Washington Post)

The new Republican leaders in the House have received millions of
dollars in contributions from banks, health insurers and other major
business interests, which are pressing for broad reversals of Democratic
policies that affect corporations, according to disclosure records and
interviews.

Much of that money flowed to the GOP
chairmen overseeing banking, energy and other key committees - leaders
who will play a central role in setting the House agenda over the next
two years.

The impetus behind such largess is simple: Many companies and industry groups hope House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio)
and other Republicans will succeed in rolling back Democratic policies
they find objectionable, including environmental and Wall Street
regulations.

GOP lawmakers took their first step in that direction Wednesday by voting to repeal President Obama's
health-care overhaul law. Major health-care firms and their employees
gave Republican leaders at least $5 million over the past two years,
including well over $2 million to Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data.

Major corporations and other interest groups often favor whichever party
is in charge, as they did in 2006 when Democrats took control of
Congress. But the surge in donations to Republicans underscores the
extent of the business community's unhappiness with Democrats and Obama,
who could face serious difficulties raising corporate donations for his
2012 reelection bid. The president has made efforts in recent months to
improve relations with the business community, including hiring William
M. Daley, a former commerce secretary and J.P. Morgan Chase executive,
as his chief of staff.

Cantor received at least $5.6 million from corporate-linked donors
during the 2010 midterm campaign, including $2.4 million from companies
and employees in the finance, insurance and real estate industries,
according to the Post analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The total marks a 40 percent increase from 2008 and puts Cantor well
ahead of most of his House GOP colleagues. At his first news briefing
this month, Cantor signaled that business issues will be a priority for
the GOP majority, including attempts to reverse key Obama initiatives.

"We are going to be placing our marker down and insisting that our
committees go about identifying and overseeing what the administration's
regulatory agencies have been doing, in terms of their job-killing
agenda," he said.

Banking, insurance and investment firms gave millions more to lawmakers
heading finance-related committees, including Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.), Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (Ky.). Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (Ala.)
- who will oversee attempts to undo Obama's Wall Street regulatory
changes - received more than $1.2 million from the banking sector,
accounting for the vast majority of his total contributions in 2010,
records show.

The pattern is similar for other key House panels. Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.),
chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, received more than
$400,000 from the energy and mining industries, a leap of nearly 50
percent from 2008. Major contributors included employees of DTE Energy,
CMS Energy and the Edison Electric Institute, which represents
utilities, records show.

Upton, whose office did not respond to a request for comment, has vowed
to roll back new greenhouse gas regulations that oil, natural gas and
coal firms oppose.

The farming and agribusiness lobby gave Rep. Frank D. Lucas (Okla.), chairman of the Agriculture Committee, more than $600,000 in donations, according to the analysis. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (Calif.),
who chairs the Armed Services Committee, received nearly half his
contributions from the defense sector, which is gearing up to oppose
budget cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Ryan, who has emerged as the House Republicans' leading voice on
budgetary issues, took in more than $1.4 million from banks, hedge
funds, investment houses and other financial-services companies.
Spokesman Conor Sweeney said Ryan "remains committed to the principles
and reforms he's advocated since he first ran for office" in 1998.

"Chairman Ryan continues to seek input from many sources - those he
serves in Wisconsin's First Congressional District, his colleagues in
Congress, economists and more - on how to best tackle our nation's most
pressing fiscal and economic challenges, " Sweeney wrote in an e-mail
statement.

Representatives for other lawmakers featured in the Post analysis did not respond to requests for comment.

Scott E. Talbott, chief lobbyist at the Financial Services Roundtable,
said the increase in giving to Republicans by major industry groups
partly reflects hope that the GOP can curb Wall Street regulations and
other restrictions being pushed by the Obama administration. The
roundtable, which gave about 60 percent of its donations to Democrats in
2008, shifted its giving to favor Republicans in 2010, records show.

"We contribute to those members of either party who thoughtfully and
carefully consider the positions on issues of importance to our
industry," Talbott said.

Tom Donohue, president of one of Washington's most powerful lobbying groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a speech
this month that the group would join Republicans in pushing for repeal
of health-care legislation, environmental restrictions and other new
Obama administration policies. But Donohue also criticized House
Republicans for considering potential budget cuts to the Highway Trust
Fund.

Democrats and liberal groups have seized on the surge in GOP corporate
contributions in an attempt to portray Republicans as beholden to big
business. Christy Setzer of U.S. Chamber Watch,
a union-backed group that criticizes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and
other business groups, said the corporate contributions are aimed at
ensuring that GOP lawmakers "pass their pet agendas."

The Public Campaign Action Fund,
which favors public financing for campaigns, calculates that candidates
supported by conservative tea party groups received more than $11
million in contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate
sectors.

David Donnelly, the organization's national campaigns director, said
such donations run counter to the populist sentiments of many tea party
voters.

"They have to decide whether they are representing their constituents or the Wall Street donors who expect a return on their investment," he said of House lawmakers.

One of the most outspoken critics of Obama's regulatory policies, Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.),
sent more than 150 letters to companies and trade groups in December
asking which federal regulations should be scaled back in order to
create jobs.

Records show that Issa, who serves as chairman of the Government Reform
and Oversight Committee, received more than $750,000 in donations from
the finance, health-care, insurance and energy industries, among others.

Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella said Democrats also solicit contributions
and advice from corporate donors and noted Obama's high-profile efforts
to reach out to business leaders.

"The idea that talking to job creators about job creation has some sort
of sinister motivation is ridiculous, especially when the president is
doing the same thing," Bardella said. "We're more than happy to hear
from all sides."

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