The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

(202) 481-1225
Randy Barrett
(202) 481-1256

Who Bankrolls Congress? Series Examines Big Money Behind Congressional Leaders

Investigation Reveals Legislators Vigoursly Back Agendas of Their Top Patrons


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have leaned heavily on
labor unions and trial lawyers for campaign funds over the course of
their Congressional careers, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)'s
have relied on corporations and trade associations.

These are among the findings of the Center for Public
Integrity's Who Bankrolls
investigation, a comprehensive look at the top
donors to Washington's most powerful lawmakers - not just recently,
but over the entire course of their federal careers. By analyzing of
three decades worth of CQ
MoneyLine records on contributions to all of their campaign committees
and leadership PACs, the Center calculated the ten top PAC donors and
five top individual contributors to each of the leadership quartet. The
Center's investigation also probes the relationship between the
donors' interests and the actions of these powerful politicians.

The first installment of the four-part series, a look
at the ten top PAC contributors and five top individual donors to Senator Harry Reid, was released today. The
remaining three stories will be posted this week on the Center's
website: Mitch McConnell tomorrow, John Boehner on Wednesday, and Nancy
Pelosi on Thursday.

The Center's research revealed that the top single
career backer of Boehner, McConnell, and Reid was the same:
telecommunications giant AT&T. Financial services interests were on
the top ten lists of all four leaders, and tobacco companies were
among the most generous contributors to McConnell of tobacco-growing
Kentucky as well as to Boehner of western Ohio, and even the
outspokenly anti-smoking Reid of Nevada.

Among the other findings:

  • The staunchly
    pro-business Boehner received more than $150,000 in contributions from a
    labor union, the American Maritime Officers, making it his eighth most
    generous contributor;
  • Pelosi's fourth-biggest
    individual donor, with at least $43,000, is Lucinda Watson, the
    granddaughter of the founder of IBM. She describes herself as a
    "certified healing touch practitioner" from Greenwich, Conn;
  • Shipping giant United
    Parcel Service Inc. not only gave at least $89,500 in PAC contributions
    to McConnell - putting it seventh on his all-time list - the company
    also gave the Kentucky Republican Party a $50,000 gift to rebuild party
    headquarters: the "Mitch McConnell Building;"
  • Reid paid Phyllis
    Frias, his third-biggest individual donor with more than $31,000 in
    lifetime campaign donations, a personal tribute in a 2009 Senate floor
    speech praising her and her late husband. In his remarks, Reid raved
    that her Alamo, Nev. bed-and-breakfast had a future "as bright as the
    neon Vegas Vic cowboy sign."

The investigation involved
combing through lobbying disclosure forms, voting records, press
releases, and news stories to see whether the legislators vigorously
backed the agendas of their top patrons. The answer: a definite yes.

Today's report on Reid notes
that a former professional gambler, a taxi company magnate, a
telecommunications lobbyist, and a giant tobacco company are among the
top lifetime givers to the Senate's top Democrat, now facing the
toughest re-election race of his political career. And his top PAC
supporters include not just AT&T, but the Laborers' International
union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees, the American Bankers Association, and MGM Mirage.

Career Patrons Homepage:

Overview Story:

McConnell: (Link will be functional June 8, at 7AM
Boehner: (Link will be functional June 9, at 7AM (EST))

Pelosi: (Link will be functional June 10, at 7AM (EST))

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern. The Center is non-partisan and non-advocacy. We are committed to transparent and comprehensive reporting both in the United States and around the world.