A Heartwarming Tale of Lobbyists, Lawmakers and Bailouts
Much has been made of the influence of the November elections on House lawmakers as they killed the Bush administration’s $700-billion Wall Street bailout yesterday. But the Center for Responsive Politics reminds us: Don’t forget the power of good old-fashioned lobbying to sway votes.
According to a CRP analysis, the 205 lawmakers who supported the bill have received, on average, 51 percent more cash from the finance, insurance and real estate industries over their careers than the 228 who voted against it.
For Democrats in this election cycle, the discrepancy is even greater: Democrats voting for the bailout received 78 percent more, on average, from the finance industry than Democrats voting against. By contrast, Republican supporters took in 23 percent more from that industry this cycle than did GOP opponents.
This time around, of course, the lobbying machine didn’t pay off — at least not yet. And there’s no way to prove that individual lawmakers voted to reward their campaign contributors. But that corporate cash does buy lawmakers’ ears. This seems simply to be a case when the public outcry over the bailout bill was even louder. As Sheila Krumholz, CRP’s executive director, pointed out:
In this case, money from the finance sector — the biggest campaign contributor of all time — seems to have played a part in lawmakers’ votes, but it didn’t win the day. Risking a seat in Congress for campaign cash isn’t worth it for politicians when the public is paying attention. And the public is certainly paying attention now.
Whether the erratic stock market holds even greater powers of persuasion has yet to be seen.