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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 22, 2010 at 10:10 AM

A look at the big business and union spenders in the election

Who are the economic interests trying to buy the election? The New York Times looks into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is spending $21.1 million this election cycle to topple Democats, making it the fourth largest spender and largest non-party participant. The Wall Street Journal says the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is the top dog, spending $87.5 million largely to help Democrats.

These are the consequences of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision. But obviously some footnotes are in order. The Times’ story is based on federal elections data, and it’s not clear what numbers or timeline the Journal is using. Also, the Times appears to be using just the spending by the U.S. Chamber and not its powerful foundation. Maybe the Journal has a scoop to derail the increasing criticism of the U.S. Chamber. There’s no question that the overall fund-raising edge is held by the right. (The Washington Independent has an interesting comparison of the two stories here).

The U.S. Chamber is a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, including foreign companies trying to influence the election. Among the donors to the Chamber and its foundation found by the Times: Dow Chemical, Prudential Financial, WSJ-publisher News Corp., Goldman Sachs, Edward Jones, Alpha Technologies, Chevron Texaco and Aegon.

The U.S. Chamber is also a major lobbying force, spending $144 million last year for a variety of pro-big-business causes (this is not your local chamber). The AFSCME is fairly straight forward, fighting against further cuts to jobs, wages and benefits among government workers. Each is a lightning rod for political activists on right and left.

But if you wonder who owns American politics and why intelligent policy-making is impossible, here’s a good place to start.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

The Street, hard to please

But Amazon, rocks today

Just point, click and buy

Comments | More in Politics and the economy

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