Foreign Money in US Elections: And There Is A Winner

Mitt Romney is venturing overseas for the first time during his candidacy to spend two days each in the UK, Israel, and Poland. It will hone his international credentials, give him an opportunity to look “presidential,” and allow him to establish, renew, or refine connections. He will also court Americans living abroad. Every vote counts. Campaign brawls are expected to stay “at the water’s edge,” so no speeches and news conferences. But there will be … fundraisers.

Politicians don’t leave home without them. Two of them on Romney’s first stop, London—the capital of the Libor scandal that is engulfing the world’s largest banks, along with central banks and regulators. One will be a tony event at $25,000 to $75,000 per person; the other, a down-to-earth reception of $2,500 per person. But they’re steeped in controversy; some of the people involved are tangled up in the Libor scandal. Romney, founding partner of Bain Capital, is a finance guy, and he’s got to go where the money is, and in London, the money is in banking.

Political campaigns have long received foreign contributions from sources other than fundraisers. It’s bipartisan, and widespread. Running for office is expensive. Luckily, just ahead of Romney’s trip, the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C., put together some data for the German paper, WirtschaftsWoche, on the contributions by German companies to US presidential and congressional races. These companies are export powerhouses, and they want to gain a bit of influence and bend some laws and loopholes their way, not unusual in our democracy that is so dominated by money. And the winner is…..

Libor-scandal tainted Deutsche Bank, being less of a bank and more of a highly leveraged hedge fund, hedged its bets. But barely. So far, it sent $86,250 to Romney, more than five times the amount it sent to President Obama ($16,575). It was the largest donor in the group. Allianz, a global insurance, banking, and asset management company, also clearly favored Romney with $14,950 versus $212 for Obama.

But Siemens, a multinational conglomerate, and the second largest donor in the group, contributed 5.8 times more to Obama ($16,575) than to Romney ($3,000). SAP, the software giant competing with Oracle, favored Obama by a large margin, $9,322 to $500. EADS, the Airbus plane maker and defense contractor, spread it out more evenly with $5,712 for Obama and $2,500 for Romney. “German” Merck, a chemical and pharmaceutical company (after World War I, it lost its foreign subsidiaries including Merck & Co. in the US) bet $6,425 on Obama and gave nothing to Romney. Munich Re, a massive reinsurance company of which Warren Buffett owns 10.2%, also bet exclusively on Obama and had nothing left for Romney. And so on, down the list.

The vast majority of the companies in the group gave more to Obama, and only four gave more to Romney. But, but…. It’s not that simple. The two heavy hitters, those that really forked over the big bucks, Deutsche Bank and Allianz, they bet on Romney, and so he walked away with 58.7% more money! A landslide so to speak.

The money was flowing more prodigiously into the coffers of lawmakers. Pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer handed over $119,000 to Democrats and $261,000 to Republicans. Deutsche Telecom pumped $149,000 to Democrats and $193,000 to Republicans. Its subsidiary T-Mobile, the fourth largest wireless carrier in the US, was being acquired last year by ATT when the deal was scuttled in December under heavy pressure from the US Government. Maybe it hadn’t paid enough. Siemens, which would love to sell high-speed trains to California and every other state that dabbles with the idea, donated $92,500 to Democrats and $105,500 to Republicans. And so on.

The results were clear: the majority of the companies donated more to Republicans, and Republicans pocketed 40.2% more than Democrats. Another landslide.

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  2 comments for “Foreign Money in US Elections: And There Is A Winner

  1. Government is merely another tool for the corporatocracy to manipulate. And politicians come cheap. Defeating future legislation and regulation is cheap, while trying to get the same passed is very expensive. Where is the escape hatch for this planet!

  2. gunnison says:

    Oh god, don't get me started Wolf.
    Good piece.
    We had a talk about this some while ago, during the GOP primaries if I recall.

    Not everyone thinks the concept of a public space is worth much of anything, indeed Romney for example has wondered aloud recently what public lands are for, and there's always been pressure one way or another to privatize everything, nailed down or not.

    But really, come on. If, in a democratic republic (in a democratic *anything* for that matter), the electoral process itself is not the quintessential public space, then indeed the term has no meaning and we may as well just turn out the lights and forget it.
    The very idea of a democratic process at all is to involve the public in determining the parameters of governance. In the case of the US, the larger framework is that the public is ultimately more than just a guiding hand, but is in fact the boss.

    If it's public space, which is really the only approach that makes any sense to me at all, then it should be stewarded with public funds. The devil's in the details, sure, but if that's not the architecture, then it ain't democracy, it's something else.

    Yet the whole (now) vastly expensive undertaking is nothing but an exercise in privately funded marketing, with the same expectations of return on the marketing dollars spent as would be the case in the market repositioning of some brand of fish sticks.

    The reality we don't like to discuss is that power and privilege don't like democracy at all, they don't trust it and never have, not for an instant.
    I recall seeing a headline in a British newspaper during WW2 (before my time – I saw it in reproduction) when some mildly leftish challengers unseated some Tory incumbents. The unexpected outcome got the establishment so spittle-drenched furious that they told the truth for once:
    "Filthy Democracy at its Worst"

    Says it all, really.

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