WASHINGTON -- March 14 -- Judging by last week's Senate vote on bankruptcy legislation, the millions of dollars in campaign donations contributed by the credit card industry over the years was money well spent.
The finance and credit industry strongly supports the bill, which would make it more difficult to escape from debt through bankruptcy protection. After several days of debate, the Senate on Thursday night approved the measure by a vote of 74-25.
An analysis of the contributions shows that senators who voted to pass the bill raised an average of nearly twice as much between 1999 and 2004 from the finance and credit industry as those who voted against the bill.
The bill's supporters received an average of $36,600 from the industry during the six-year timeframe, while the measure's opponents raised an average of $20,221.
A breakdown of senators by party reveals a similar trend. The 18 Democrats who voted to pass the bill raised an average of $51,200 from the industry during the period studied, as compared to the $20,200, on average, collected by the 25 Democrats who voted to reject it.
Republican senators, all of whom voted for the bill, raised an average of $38,600 from the industry during the past three election cycles. Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.), an independent who caucuses with Democrats and voted to pass the bill, collected $25,200 from the industry. Democrat Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), who did not vote, raised $19,700.
Contributions from MBNA, the nation's top credit card issuer and the biggest political donor in the finance and credit industry, skew strongly toward senators who supported the bill. The company's employees and political action committee contributed $1.1 million between 1999 and 2004 to the senators who voted "yes" on the bill, an average of $14,700 per lawmaker. Senators who voted to defeat the bill raised a total of $85,000, or $3,400 per lawmaker, from MBNA's employees and PAC during that time.
There was less of a disparity in the average amounts given by other industries lobbying to pass the legislation. Contributions from commercial banks, for example, totaled an average of $107,200 to senators who voted in favor of the bill and $102,400 to senators to voted against it.
The figures above include individual and political action committee contributions to current members of the Senate since 1999. Donations to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 cycle, when he ran for president, were excluded. Kerry, who voted against the bankruptcy bill, took in $173,400 from the finance/credit industry in the 2004 cycle on his way to raising more than $251 million in total private contributions.
The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where Republican leaders have promised quick action on the bill. Finance and credit companies have given a total of $5.9 million in individual and PAC contributions since 1999 to current House members, 64 percent to Republicans.
MBNA's employees and PAC have sent $958,100 since 1999 to current House members, 71 percent to Republicans.
This article, along with related charts and links, may be found on the Center's Captal Eye Web site at <http://www.capitaleye.org/inside.asp?ID=159>