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Corporate Donors Dole Out Hefty Sums to Democratic, GOP Governors Associations

May 2, 2011

(This article is re-posted from OpenSecrets.)

During federal elections, contributions to moneyed political party organizations such as the Democratic National Committee or National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee receive considerable attention. Less scrutinized are governors associations, which in recent years have attracted significantly more special interest cash than ever before.

Unlike political committees or candidates for federal office, the Democratic Governors Association and Republican Governors Association both may receive unlimited amounts of money in their bids to support gubernatorial candidates across the nation, including money directly from corporate and union treasuries. And raise cash they did.

During the 2010 election cycle, the RGA raised a total of $117.1 million. Interest groups, corporations and unions accounted for $73.1 million of these contributions to the RGA. And of this sum, $60.3 million (or 82.5 percent) came from businesses, lawyers and lobbyists.

According to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of the top 50 donors to the RGA, 39 are corporate entities, and together, they gave $19 million to support the organization.

Topping the list of corporate contributors to the RGA is News America, at $1.25 million. News America is a subsidiary of News Corp., a company founded by media magnate Rupert Murdoch. News Corp. is the third largest media conglomerate in the world, and it owns Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, among other publications.

Contran Corp. is a close second, having made $1.125 million in contributions to the RGA during the 2010 election cycle. Contran is a holding company that owns subsidiaries that specializes in chemical, metal, computer and waste management systems. In 2010 alone, the company also spent $340,000 to lobby the federal government.

The DGA, meanwhile, received $46.7 million of its overall $55.3 million in receipts during the 2010 election cycle from corporations, unions or special interest groups, and $32.7 million of that — or about 70 percent — came from corporations, lobbyists and lawyers.

Of the DGA’s top 50 donors, 32 are corporations from the health, energy or and telecommunications sectors.

Pfizer gave $590,770, and this represented the single largest corporate contribution to the DGA. Pfizer is a global pharmaceutical company that produces drugs such as Advil, Celebrex and Lipitor. During 2010, the drug company spent more than $13 million lobbying Congress on public health and tax issues.

Second on the DGA’s list is FirstEnergy Corp., which gave $550,000. FirstEnergy is an Ohio-based electric company and is a member of the Forbes 500 list. The company hired 15 lobbyists to influence lawmakers in Washington on energy, environmental and other issues last year.

Among major corporate contributors to the DGA and RGA:

A number of corporations ultimately hedged their bets in gubernatorial races by giving generously to both the DGA and RGA.

When comparing the top 50 donor lists for both associations, 15 companies sent money to both organizations, according to the Center’s research.

For instance, the U.S. subsidiary of AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals contributed $577,000 to the RGA while also giving $520,000 to the DGA. AstraZenceca is a London-based pharmaceutical company that specializes in drugs that combats cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.

Similarly, the Correction Corporation of America gave $306,000 to RGA and $265,000 to DGA. Correction Corporation of America designs, constructs, remodels and manages prisons and jails. The organization also operates inmate transportation services through its subsidiary company, TransCor America.

Another company that donated to both associations is Wal-Mart. During this past election cycle, the massive retailer contributed $469,000 to the RGA and $411,000 to the DGA.

Click on the charts below to see how business and special interest sectors have contributed money to the DGA and RGA during the 2010 election cycle (click charts to enlarge):

Although corporations have made sizable donations to both governors associations, individuals have also made six- and seven-figure donations, particularly to the RGA.

In all, eight people gave at least $500,000 to the RGA during the 2010 election cycle, including Perry Homes chief Bob Perry ($8 million), Elliott Management hedge fund honcho Paul Singer ($2.38 million) and Koch Industries co-owner David Koch ($1 million).

Perry is also notable for his financial support of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth organization that criticized Democrat John Kerry during his 2004 presidential bid and American Crossroads, a conservative group established last year in part by former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, as OpenSecrets Blog previously reported.

Eleven people donated six-figure sums to the DGA during the 2010 election cycle, including Newsweb Corp. Chairman Fred Eychaner ($450,000), lawyer J. Steve Mostyn ($400,000) and BLS Investments Chairman Bernard L. Schwartz ($350,000).

Six-figure contributions by Eychaner were also notably used by a political committee operated by EMILY’s List called Women Vote! to fund radio ads during the special election in Massachusetts in January 2010, as OpenSecrets Blog first reported in March 2010. Women Vote! was one of the first so-called “super PACs” to operate during the 2010 election cycle.

During the 2010 election cycle, the GOP won a net of six gubernatorial seats in the 38 contested state and territorial governorships.

The 2012 election cycle will feature only 13 gubernatorial races. But corporations, labor unions and ideological groups will likely invest their resources into these contests given their competitive nature and deep partisan divides across the nation.

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