Insurance Contributors Favor Republicans; Santorum, Clinton, McGavick Top Recipients

October 25, 2006

Insurance-related contributors to this year’s midterm Congressional races are favoring Republicans 2-to-1 over Democrats while the overall total given by insurance interests appears down from two years ago.

According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, insurance political action committees and individuals in the industry had given a total of $22.8 million to candidates in House and Senate races as of Sept. 11, with 66 percent or $15.1 million of that going to Republicans.

Democratic candidates for federal offices have received about $7.5 million.

Overall, the industry’s contribution thus far to federal candidates is trailing the year 2004 total, when insurance interests gave $36.3 million, CRP reports. CRP’s figures for the industry thus far this year are based on data available from the Federal Election Commission as of Sept. 11.

But other industries are more than filling the gap as the CRP predicts this year’s federal election could cost about $2.6 billion by year’s end, making it the most expensive midterm election ever.

Compared to other groups, insurance ranks eighth in political giving, behind, among others, law firms, real estate, securities/investments and health care. Lawyers and law firms are responsible for the biggest sum — $89 million.

Top insurance contributors
Life and health insurance interests are well represented among the top insurance donors as of Sept. 11. According to the report, the top 10 contributors from insurance committees and individuals combined are AFLAC ($1.3 million); Blue Cross/Blue Shield ($1.1 million); National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors ($964,000); Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America ($959,000); New York Life Insurance ($884,000); Massachusetts Mutual Life ($647,000); Metropolitan Life ($627,000); American Financial Group ($558,000); Liberty Mutual ($535,000); and United Services Automobile Association Group ($480,000).

Rounding out the top 20 are St. Paul Travelers ($430,000); American Council of Life Insurers ($417,000); General Electric ($404,000); Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers ($392,000); Zurich Financial Services ($381,000); Prudential Financial ($337,000); American International Group ($334,000); Property Casualty Insurers Association of America ($326,000); Cigna Corp. ($317,000); and Northwestern Mutual ($315,000).

Top recipients from insurance
The CRP tally of top beneficiaries of insurance giving places two politicians not found together on many of the same lists in the top spots and a former insurance executive in the third position.

The top 10 recipients of insurance political donations (based on FEC data released Oct. 11) are Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. ($416,000); Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. ($340,000); Michael McGavick, Republican former Safeco Insurance executive running for Senate in Washington ($280,000); Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., $262,000); Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio ($253,000); Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz. ($241,000); Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. ($239,000); Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn. ($229,000); Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio ($218,000); and Rep. Mark Kennedy, Republican Senate candidate in Minnesota.

Others top recipients of insurance monies include Sen. James Talent, R-Mo.; Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.; Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.; Sen. George Allen, R-Va.; Rep. Sue Kelly, R-N.Y.; Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Rep Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y.; Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Me.; and Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La.

CRP predicts that this year’s election for control of the House of Representatives and Senate will be the most expensive midterm election ever. The research group estimates that the candidates, national political parties and outside issue advocacy groups will spend roughly $2.6 billion by the end of 2006 to influence the 472 federal contests and pad the war chests of incumbents not running this year.

The CRP based its 2006 prediction on spending to date and the final tally for the 2002 midterm election. In 2004, which included a presidential contest, the election cost $4.2 billion. About $2.2 billion was spent in 2002, which preceded campaign finance reforms that limited the influence of large corporate and union donors. The estimate for 2006 would represent an 18 percent increase over ’02.

“The torrid pace of fundraising for this election is a reflection of how competitive November 7th will be,” said Sheila Krumholz, the center’s acting executive director and research director. “Barring a scandal sinking your opponent — which has happened a number of times this year — you simply cannot win a seat in the House without $1 million or more — or millions more for the Senate. But as Election Day approaches, it’s important for candidates and citizens to remember that you can’t win without votes either.”

All candidates for House and Senate combined have raised nearly $1.3 billion, as of Oct. 23. Candidates still in the running for House have raised, on average, about $760,000, while Senate candidates have raised $5.8 million (which includes money raised since the start of the six-year term in 2001). Incumbent senators have a 4:1 advantage over their current challengers, on average. House incumbents have out-raised their current challengers 7:2, according to the CRP analysis of FEC data.

Republicans are expected to retain their edge in fundraising through the election. The CRP predicts that Republican interests — candidates, party committees and conservative advocacy groups — will spend $1.4 billion on this election. Democratic interests will spend $1.2 billion, the CRP projects.

Business interests account for about three-quarters of all contributions, with ideological, labor and other interests making up the rest.

“The industries and interests funding the 2006 election have been big givers for years, and they’re building on their influence now. They’re making an investment they hope will pay off once the 110th Congress takes office in January,” Krumholz said.

Additional observations
The CRP offered additional observations on the election, which is 12 days away:

CRP predicts that PAC receipts and spending will exceed $1 billion for the first election ever, reflecting the ever-growing influence of business, labor and ideological interests in federal politics.

Despite the apparent competitiveness of this election, the percentage of PAC money going to incumbents is the highest it has been since 1990, based on 18-month figures. Krumholz said, “Corporate, union and ideological interests appear to be digging in to protect those already in office, although soon after Election Day, you can bet they’ll start writing checks to make friends with the incoming freshmen.”

The top donors this cycle, based on contributions from their PACs and employees, include the National Association of Realtors, the financial giant Goldman Sachs, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union, telecom leader AT&T, the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. “Most Americans would be surprised to learn the degree to which their elections are being financed by their real estate agents, electricians and the beer industry,” Krumholz said.

At least 603,000 Americans, or 0.20 percent of the population, have contributed more than $200 to a federal campaign or party in 2005-2006. They are a partisan bunch. Only about 8,000, or 1.3 percent of all itemized individual contributors, designate at least a third of their contributions to both parties.

At least 71 individuals have “maxed out” this cycle, reaching the federal limit of $101,400 in contributions to candidates, PACs and parties. The list includes real estate developers, defense contractors, lobbyists, money managers, philanthropists and even a self-described poet. “What’s remarkable about the biggest campaign contributors is that these people are not household names. You may not know them, but campaign fundraisers and candidates definitely do,” Krumholz said.

For the 2006 election, 54 congressional races around the country lack either a Democrat or a Republican, the CRP has found. Democrats occupy 43 of those seats, and they can count on holding them. “While money is fueling intense competition in many races,” Krumholz said, “it also prevents competition by fending off challengers who cannot match the incumbent’s fundraising.”

If history is to be any guide, most incumbents should expect to return to Washington next year. In the last three elections, since the 2000 contest, an average of 97 percent of House incumbents have won re-election, as have 87 percent of senators. Political analysts have been saying that 2006 could be a Democratic watershed event akin to the “Republican takeover” in 1994. But that year, 90 percent of House members still won re-election, as did 92 percent of senators.

The Center for Responsive Politics is a research group that tracks money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. Support for CRP comes from a combination of foundation grants and individual contributions. It accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade associations.

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

Contributions by industry

Top insurance contributors

Top recipients from insurance

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