Logo Lowdown from the 2010 elections. Part 1–donors on the record
In 1986, Richard Kimball, a Democratic state legislator in Arizona, was running for a US Senate seat. In a televised debate, he did something that absolutely astonished his opponent and completely confounded his campaign consultants: He looked directly into the camera and spoke the truth about the money corruption of big-time American politics.
Enjoying Hightower? How about a weekly email that gives you the full scoop?
“Understand what we do to you,” Kimball said to viewers. “We spend all of our time raising money, often from strangers we do not even know. Then we spend it in three specific ways: First we measure you, what it is you want to purchase in the political marketplace–just like Campbell’s soup or Kellogg’s cereal. Next, we hire some consultants who know how to tailor our image to fit what we sell. Lastly, we bombard you with the meaningless, issueless, emotional nonsense that is always the result. And whichever one of us does that best will win.”
Unfortunately for Kimball he was not the best bamboozler on the ballot–he lost big to John McCain, who’s presently in his 25th year as an Arizona senator. Ironically, McCain himself became a champion of campaign finance reform for a while. But he totally abandoned that pose about three years ago and has now wedged himself tightly into his senate seat with the very same kind of special interest campaign cash and vacuous politicking that Kimball had so rightly condemned.
The corporate money of 1986 was like a light drizzle compared to the torrential downpour in last year’s congressional elections. And, sure enough, the 2010 campaigns (including McCain’s ugly re-election bid) bombarded voters with a level of “meaningless, issueless, emotional nonsense” that even Kimball could not have imagined. Nor has this ridiculous, inherently corrupting campaign money system come anywhere near its full power–a tsunami of corporate cash is already rising for 2012.
Politicians are the sellers, but who–specifically–is buying America’s democracy? We will devote this and one other issue of the Lowdown to answering this crucial question.
This month, drawing on donor reports that individuals and corporations must file with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), we’re identifying many of the largest givers to last year’s Republican victors in the House and Senate. With officials in Washington now pushing hard to strengthen the grip that big bankers and corporations have over consumers, workers, the environment, and others, the public has a right to follow the money, including–where possible–tracing the funds to recognizable brand names and logos.
"Two wrongs don't make a right, but three left turns do." --Jim Hightower
In our second issue, we’ll do the best we can to lift the veil on the massive amounts of secret cash that was funneled into the 2010 elections through corporate front groups. This “mystery money” is the diabolical product of the Supreme Court’s edict last year that corporations are “persons” with a First Amendment right to spend unlimited and unreported sums of their shareholders’ funds to pervert America’s elections.
Both issues of the Logo Lowdown are largely based on the exhaustive, nationally recognized research of two excellent public interest groups: www.opensecrets.org and www.sunlightfoundation.com. In this month’s report, we break the donors into industry groups, listing corporate interests that gave $100,000 or more, with at least 60 percent of their money going to support Republican candidates. We also list the top Democratic donors.
JBS Swift & Co. Swift; American Reserve; Cedar River Farms; Showcase Foods; Steakhouse Classic; Packerland; Angus Select; Liberty Bell; Moyer; Clear River Farms; Pilgrim’s Pride; Pierce Chicken; Wing Dings; Wing-Zings; Speed Grill; Country Pride; To-Ricos; Super-Chik’n; Honey Dipt; Gold Kist Farms; Big Value Chicken; La Herencia Natural Pork “designed to meet the needs of Hispanic consumers.”
Flowers Foods Nature’s Own; Cobblestone Mill; Whitewheat; Sunbeam Bread; Bunny Bread; ButterKrust; Mi Casa
ConAgra Foods Chef Boyardee; DAVID Seeds; Egg Beaters; Healthy Choice; Hebrew National; Hunt’s; Kid Cuisine; Marie Callender’s; Orville Redenbacher’s; PAM; Reddi-wip; Slim Jim; Act II; Banquet; Banquet Brown ‘N Serve; Blue Bonnet; Crunch ‘n Munch; Fiddle Faddle; Gulden’s; Jiffy Pop; La Choy; Libby’s; Manwich; Parkay; Patio; Peter Pan; Poppycock popcorn; Ranch Style Beans; Rotel; Rosarita; Swiss Miss; Van Camp’s; Wesson; Wolf Brand Chili
Grimmway Farms Potatoes, carrots, onions under the Bunny-Luv brand.
Smithfield Foods Paula Deen brands
Jackson Family Enterprises Kendall Jackson
Chiquita Brands International Chiquita, Fresh Express
Herschend Family Entertainment Adventure Aquarium, Camden, NJ; Classic Cable Car Sightseeing; Dollywood; Ride The Ducks (all over the country); Showboat Branson Belle; Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri; Stone Mountain Inn, Park, & Campground
CCA Industries Plus White Teeth Whitening; Sudden Change Skin Care line; Nutra Nail; Bikini Zone; Lobe Wonder; Mega-T Dietary Supplements; Solar Sense sun care products; Parfume de Vanille; Hair Off; Wash-N-Curl; Scar Zone; IPR-3; Shave zone; PainBust-R
This egg carton of golden givers contains some of the richest people in our land. They are investing in politicians to advance their own corporate interests, of course, but many of them are also extremist laissez-faire ideologues who share the Koch brothers’ vision of establishing an unbridled corporate plutocracy in America. NOTE: These totals include donations made to state candidates as well as congressional contenders.
Corporation & products
Bob Perry Billionaire Houston developer. NOTE: An additional $1,284,600 was donated by Mrs. Bob Perry.
92% to GOP
Jerry Perenchio Multi-billionaire Hollywood media mogul.
52% to GOP
0% to Dem
48% to other
Rob Rowling Billionaire, owner of Gold’s Gym, Omni Hotels, etc
100% to GOP
Parker Collier Florida developer who has given most of her money to Republicans outside of her state.
100% to GOP
Paul Singer Founder of a $7 billion hedge fund (Elliott Associates) and long time right wing funder, including helping finance the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth front group used by the GOP to attack John Kerry in 2004. (*Libertarians)
81% to GOP
19% to Libs*
Charles Schwab Billionaire founder of his eponymous investment firm and longtime GOP partisan.
100% to GOP
Jackson Stephens Funded the ultra-conservative Club for Growth.
95% to GOP
John Childs Billionaire founder of JW Childs, a Boston private equity firm specializing in takeovers of consumer product corporations and health care companies.
99% to GOP
Harlan Crow Billionaire owner of Trammel Crow Company and Crow Holdings, huge developers and investors in everything from hotels to hedge funds.
96% to GOP
Harold Simmons Billionaire toxic waste disposal operator and funder of right-wing groups and candidates [NOTE: sued by his own daughters for illegally forging campaign contributions in their names without their knowledge or permission. Settled with them for $50 million.]
88% to GOP
John Chambers CEO of Cisco Systems, a Silicon Valley giant.
72% to GOP
John Nau Owner of the Houston distributor of Budweiser products and other beverages.
While the corporate cash was overwhelmingly behind the GOP in 2010, the Dems also had some substantial brand-name backers. Here are the major corporations that put at least 70 percent of their political money into Democratic congressional candidates:
Corporation & products
Percentage to Democrats
Carnival Cruise Lines
Gallo Andre; Barefoot; Bartles & Jaymes; Boone’s Farm; Carlo Rossi; E&J VS Brandy; Ecco Domani; Frei Brothers; Gallo; Livingston Cellars; Louis M. Martini; Mirassou; Rancho Zabaco; Red Bicyclette; Redwood Creek; Tisdale Vineyards; Turning Leaf; Whitehaven; William Hill Estate
Estee Lauder Aramis; Estee Lauder; Clinique; Prescriptives; Origins; Kilton; M*A*C; Lab Series Skincare for Men; La Mer; Bobbi Brown; Donna Karan; Aveda; Jo Malone; Bumble and bumble; Michael Kors; American Beauty; Flirt!; Sean John; Daisy Fuentes; Tom Ford; Coach; Smashbox
Tax breaks, regulation of hedge funds, approval of mergers, military and homeland security contracts, environmental loopholes, restricting consumer lawsuits, offshore banking rules, CEO compensation limits, labor law reform–these are but a few of the issues of very special interest to the biggest corporate donors in last year’s congressional races. Tallied here are (1) contributions from corporate PACs made directly to candidates, and (2) contributions from corporate ‘soft money’ accounts made to certain political committees.
The favor seekers insist that their donations are in no way to be considered bribes for specific legislative actions. Rather, they explain, the money merely buys access to lawmakers for top corporate executives and lobbyists.
Maybe. But where in Article One of the Constitution or in the First Amendment did the founders write that access to our national policymakers shall be for sale–with the most access going to those with the biggest checkbooks? NOTE: These totals include donations to state candidates as well as congressional contenders.
Corporation & products
Perry Homes (owned by far right-wing ideologue Bob Perry of Houston, PH has built dozens of housing developments throughout Texas)
TRT Holdings (owns Omni Hotel chain, Gold’s Gym, Gaylord Entertainment [Hee-Haw, Grand Ole Opry, Opryland, WSM radio, etc….], an oil and gas company, and much more)
Chartwell (a media investment firm owned by Hollywood agent, sports promoter, billionaire, and right-wing Republican Jerry Perenchio)
Altria (the world’s largest tobacco conglomerate, owning brands ranging from Marlboro cigarettes to Skoal smokeless tobacco)