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Big Donors Carefully Give To Both Bush, Kerry

by Emad Mekay

Is Kerry Really A Pawn Of "Special Interests?"

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- Four of the 10 top financial services corporations are the most lavish contributors to both the George Bush and John Kerry presidential campaigns, says a new analysis of campaign fundraising released September 7.

According to the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan think tank, President Bush and his Democratic challenger now share nearly half of the biggest donors, suggesting that the companies are hoping to cement a friendly relationship with whoever wins the White House in November.

By historical standards, the race is too close to call. A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll released Tuesday showed Bush leading with 52 percent, Kerry 45 percent and independent candidate Ralph Nader one percent among likely voters.

However, Bush's lead, reflecting a post-GOP convention bounce, was within the survey's error margin on Labour Day, the traditional start of the campaign's final leg.

"Conventional theories in campaign finance state that you always want to have money on the winning horse," said Alex Knot, one of the authors of the report. "If there are any favors that are granted for those that contribute, the investment of a couple hundred thousand dollars is nothing compared to the windfalls of billions in legislation."

Until this cycle, most of Kerry's top contributors had come from the telecommunications industry and law firms. Most of Bush's largest donors are financial corporations with executives who have pledged to raise money for his reelection.

"While 2004's is one of the most divisive elections in history, campaign contributors to the candidates are looking more similar than ever," said the report.

"What we are seeing is a different trend in fundraising where financial organizations that once exclusively favoured Republicans are now also favouring Kerry," said Knot. "There are a few reasons why this could be taking place. One of the most intriguing theories is that these companies are hedging their bets."

Bush's top career patrons are financial powerhouses like Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc and Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Kerry's largest career donors are Harvard University, Time Warner and Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo.

The White House has repeatedly been criticised for the perception that it rewards corporate interests at the expense of ordinary Americans. The centre says donors have an interest in continuing that trend.

"The 10 largest donors to Bush during the cycle are all financial institutions," said Knot. "So obviously they care about or have an interest in some of the things that Bush has an interest in. Some of these could be the three tax cuts that Bush has put in place during his first term."

The largest of the cuts that would affect these corporations would be the cuts on capital gains and dividends, as many of these companies have a large amount of investment income.

Bush has also promised to make those cuts permanent and has floated the idea of privatising Social Security, the 40-year-old pension plan for the elderly created during FDR's New Deal, and investing the funds in the stock. market.

Companies still gave more money to Bush than they did to Kerry. Citigroup, for example, gave Kerry $169,254 and Bush $246,645.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co gave Bush $486,125 while giving only $100,204 to Kerry, and Goldman Sachs Group gave the Republican campaign some 295,950 dollars while giving the Democratic camp only 127,750 dollars. Bush netted $368,900 from UBS AG Inc while Kerry received 138,700 dollars.

Knot explained the lion's share going to Bush on the grounds that Kerry spent a shorter period of time raising money as the official nominee of his party, and that Bush already has a record of being friendly to corporations.

According to the centre, these powerful companies are backing the election of already wealthy candidates. Financial disclosure forms show that the two contenders are millionaires, though none can use more than $50,000 of his own money unless he opts out of federal matching funds.

Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry have a disclosed worth of as much as $747 million, but the most that Kerry can personally lay claim to is $14.8 million of those assets. The bulk of the fortune belongs to his wife, though the two do hold some assets jointly, says the report.

The next wealthiest household belongs to Vice President Dick and his wife, Lynn Cheney, whose personal assets together amount to as much as $111.2 million.

Kerry's running mate John Edwards says the upper-end of his family's wealth is $44.6 million, and Bush rounds out the field with some $18.9 million in assets.

Even third Party Candidate Ralph Nader has as much as $4.9 million, and reportedly earned more than half a million dollars last year alone with speeches and other activities.

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Albion Monitor September 8, 2004 (

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