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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Maybe Business Doesn't Spend on Campaigns for the Same Reason Opponents of Prohibition Don't

Maybe Business Doesn't Spend on Campaigns for the Same Reason Opponents of Prohibition Don't

Wednesday, 04 September 2013 05:09

Eduardo Porter's column notes evidence that individual donors are becoming increasingly important to political campaigns while business donors appear to be less important. The column interprets this to imply a lessening of their political influence, especially over the Republican Party.

There is an alternative explanation. After-tax corporate profits are at their highest level in the post-war period. This suggests that business has collectively been enormously successful in pushing its agenda. In this context, businesses may see little reason to spend vast sums on elections just as opponents of prohibition have not spent much money pushing their cause since the end of prohibition 80 years ago.

Candidates who pose major challenges to important business interests are rarely able to even contest a senate seat. The likelihood that they would be able to control a house of Congress or the presidency in the foreseeable future is near zero. 

Comments (10)Add Comment
It's A Matter Of Definition
written by Charley James, September 04, 2013 5:37
One thing Mr. Porter's piece overlooks is so-called dark money, funnelled through various groups who can conceal the names of their contributors.

Moreover, people such as Sheldon Adelson and David Koch are counted as "individual" donors, yet they and fewer than about 400 uber wealthy people like them together account for some 30% of all political contributions (according to the Sunlight Foundation). My $10 to a campaign may add to the number of individuals contributing to a candidate, the same as Mr. Koch, but my influence on the election is by no means the same.
Let's Have a Beer With the Koch Brothers and Talk About It, Shall We?
written by Last Mover, September 04, 2013 6:47

Exactly. Prohibition of marijuana worked until recently so the legalized alcohol and tobacco industry did not have to spend much to cripple a powerful competitor and keep it demonized and underground, out of the legal market.

The drug and culture wars did it for them, in tandem with a corporate lobbying, marketing and advertising machine that brainwashed Americans into believing absurdly, that marijuana imposed far more harm than alcohol and tobacco.

Proponents of these wars have gone so far over the top some now say marijuana is a gateway drug even to alcohol and tobacco. After all, they must have known for example about studies showing nicotine could be more addictive than heroin.

Wake up America. Since uber rich individuals - rather than businesses - have become the driving force behind controlling elections because businesses are flush with market power protectionist security, why not have a joint with the Koch brothers and talk about it, shall we?
The biggest reason corp donations have less clout
written by JaaaaayCeeeee, September 04, 2013 6:55

Sorry, Charley, but Porter did point out that if you pretended that 100% of 501c were corporate, it's still a thirtenth of donations.

However, Eduardo Porter DID explain one of the biggest reasons why corporate donations aren't a big influence, although it completely discredits his own argument that business has lost clout in the GPO. Makes the entire premise just a craven application of green lanternism to big business, too, since he's flat out admitting that the news doesn't do its job, and is just as captured as the lobbied:

"Business executives might prefer lobbying, where they spend far more than on campaign contributions, not because the limits are more relaxed but because swaying legislators on both sides of the aisle is more effective at getting what they want. And such lobbying is less likely to kindle anger among consumers, shareholders and other constituents than spending to change the outcome of elections".
If you have won why spend?
written by Jennifer, September 04, 2013 7:19
Absolutely agree that the biggest reason business is not spending SO much money on campaigns is because on the biggest issues, they have what they want. They dodged any radical reform during the crisis in 2008 and even with unemployment high the mantra from Congress is "entitlement reform" and debt reduction.

However the article neglects the insidious ways corporate money gets into all aspects of society, which influences politicians and their constituents. This would include "non-profits" such as Fix the Debt, the many corporate-funded chairs and programs in major universities, and fawning coverage in the media of "job creators".
written by skeptonomist, September 04, 2013 8:17
Instead of contributing to campaigns, big business can influence politicians by giving them high-paying jobs after they leave office. Employment in lobbying continues to increase despite the poor economy.
after-tax corporate profits
written by Tyler Healey, September 04, 2013 8:46
Why are after-tax corporate profits are at their highest level in the post-war period when the Labor Force Participation Rate is only 63 percent?
How Much It Takes?
written by James, September 04, 2013 10:00
How much money needs to be stolen to be convicted of stealing and spending time in jail?

Very much less than the corps who have been able to get away with what they could with their "sponsored" politicians.

Instead of being criminals, they should be politicians. They could steal more, and legally too.
When you control the media you don't need to spend as much
written by Sustainable Gains, September 04, 2013 3:00
No need to bribe politicians with donations, when you can get everyone to go along with your agenda through favorable corporate media coverage. With journalists on the ropes financially, every advertiser is coddled. So it's good to be the advertiser, and between the advertisements themselves and the favorable coverage, you get double the bang for your advertising buck!
Powerful political sources may influence news media, along with advertisers
written by JaaaaayCeeeee, September 04, 2013 8:48
To add to your point, Sustainable Gains,

Most voters (somewhere around 90%) get their news from TV, not newspapers, which rely not just upon advertisers, but on powerful political sources and insiders, which goes a long way towards explaining, for example, beltway groupthink.
written by Jill Herendeen, September 09, 2013 7:27
Additionally, perhaps donors figure they don't have to donate as much because they know that with votes being "counted" on computers w/ proprietary software, their candidates are in-the-bag.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.