Which Special Interests Are Partisan?

A commenter to the previous post, “Is Union Reform Partisan,” took issue with the observation therein that corporate political spending is less partisan than union political spending. The commenter requested evidence to back up that claim, and suggested that not only is corporate spending equally skewed in favor of Republicans, but that corporate political spending far outweighs political spending by unions. These are fair questions, and the data that follows draws from the same source used in that post, which documented that 95% of union spending goes to Democrats.

Parsing data from OpenSecrets.org, again, “a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics,” this time I will present information on all of the top 100 political spenders during the eleven election cycles between 1990 through 2010. These top 100 are divided into four categories; corporate, financial, union, and grassroots. The results were quite surprising, as summarized on the chart below:

The data used to generate these numbers comes from OpenSecrets.org’s “Top All-Time Donors, 1990-2010” table, which I downloaded onto spreadsheets and sorted into the four categories noted, while retaining in the far left column the rank of each contributor within the top 100. So the reader may view my assumptions, all four of these tables constitute the remainder of this post.

Readers are invited to mull the implications of these findings regarding the top 100 political spenders of the last 20 years in America:

1 – The corporate and financial sectors combined did outspend unions, by a ratio of almost exactly 2-to-1.

2 – Unions spent 95% of their contributions on Democrats.

3 – The corporate sector spent 56% of their contributions on Republicans, and the financial sector spent 53% of their contributions on Republicans. Their spending between the two parties was essentially nonpartisan.

4 – Overall, among the top 100 political spenders of the last 20 years, Democrats collected 62% of the takings, and Republicans only collected 38%.

It remains open to interpretation which party might be more beholden to special interests…

Here is the data:

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