Big businesses own the US Congress
Posted on 16 October 2010
Today, I was going to write a post related to ecological matters, but I just stumbled upon an article from the magazine Mother Jones which I thought was very much worth sharing. Indeed, the journalist Dave Gilson has recently wondered what if members of the US Congress were seated not by party but according to the industries which gave them the most money over their entire careers? Interesting question indeed.
He gave it a try and presented the following charts, representing lobbies “seating” at the Senate and at the House. I copied both charts below, as well as a selection of interesting Congressmen’s profile based on their top donors.
There is nothing original in saying that most politicians evolving at national levels have intricate links with major industries, but Mother Jones has done a stupendous job in presenting it clearly. I wished we could see such work done in other countries, or even at the European Union level.
SECTOR | # OF MEMBERS
Finance, insurance, and real estate 57
Lawyers and lobbyists 25
Energy and natural resources 2
Miscellaneous business 2 Communications and electronics 1 No money raised 3
Total seats | 100
Total raised: $31.8 million, 12% from agribusiness
Top donors: The ranking member of the agriculture committee has never met a federal farm subsidy he didn’t like. He just happens to be Congress’ second-most bountiful recipient of agribusiness cash.
Total raised: $16.2 million, 13% from energy and natural resources
Top donors: Inhofe, who’s declared that “man-induced global warming is an article of religious faith,” has received more money from Koch Industries than any other company. The oil firm has given nearly $25 million to climate-change denial groups.
Any conflicts of interests here?…
SECTOR | # OF MEMBERS
Finance, insurance, and real estate 159
Lawyers and lobbyists 20
Misc business 18
Energy and natural resources 10
Defense 7 Transportation 6 Communications and electronics 4 Construction 1 Unfilled seats 2
Total seats | 435
Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.)
Total raised: $10.8 million, 21% from labor
Top donors: The chair of the appropriations committee and a subcommittee with oversight of labor matters, is the House’s second-biggest recipient of union cash.
Total raised: $17.2 million, 19% from energy and natural resources
Top donors: Barton, who decried the “shakedown” of BP, has watched the cash flow from Anadarko Petroleum, owner of 25% of BP’s Deepwater Horizon well.
Total raised: $8.3 million, 17% from defense
Top donors: The Armed Services Committee chair is—surprise!— Congress’ top recipient of defense-industry cash.
In addition to these charts and profiles, Mother Jones has also listed Congress’s top 75 corporate sponsors. You will probably not be surprised to see that are present in the list major financial players such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, American Bankers Association, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Merryll Lynch, AIG, Freddie Mac, KPMG, UBS and Credit Suisse. Among the Defense contractors, you will find Lockeed Martin, Boeing and Northtrop Grumman. Perhaps unsurprisingly tobacco industries such as Altria (parent company for Philip Morris USA) and US Smokeless Tobacco Company are also on the list. Interestingly, the list also includes Koch Industries Inc, involved in refineries, chemicals, fertilizers, etc; ADM, agribusiness leader; and naturally oil companies Chevron and ExxonMobil.
I can’t help but think that all of these names are somewhat linked to something that went wrong, whether we talk of the global financial crisis, the war in Iraq, lies from the tobacco industry, genetically modified organisms or oil related environmental disasters. Now, some people talk of the need to moving toward a ‘responsible capitalism’. Given that money seems to be more important than values, I seriously doubt it is possible.