Monday, December 15, 2014

Democrats Who Voted for Spending Bill Received Twice as Much From Financial Industry Than NO Voters

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi broke with the Obama administration and urged other Democrats not to approve the spending bill. (photo: Susan Walsh/AP)

Democrats Who Voted for Spending Bill Received Twice as Much From Financial Industry Than NO Voters

By Philip Bump, The Washington Post
13 December 14

We'll start with the thing that will catch your attention, as is the way: Democrats who voted for the giant spending bill on Thursday night received, on average, twice the campaign contributions from the finance/insurance/real estate industry as their colleagues who voted against it.

Debate over the bill, you'll remember, ended up being centered on the repeal of a restriction on big banks imposed after the financial collapse that led to the recession. The vote in the House -- which ended up being far narrower than the White House would have liked -- resulted in an interesting geographic split. Here's how it looked.

Democrats in conservative areas (the South, upstate New York) voted for the bill. Republicans in conservative areas ... didn't. That doesn't hold true universally, but it's striking to see Kansas and Texas and Louisiana have so much of that lighter red color, showing Republicans who bucked Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and opposed the measure. (The black areas are districts whose representatives didn't vote.)

We cross-referenced the vote with data from the Center for Responsive Politics on how much each member had received in campaign contributions from the finance/insurance/real estate industries. This isn't only from PACs affiliated with those industries, we'll note; it also includes employees of firms in those industries. On average, members of Congress who voted yes received $322,000 from those industries. Those who voted no? $162,000. Here's the split by party.
Averages can be deceiving, of course, so here's another way to look at it. We color-coded each member of the House by party and then by how much money he or she had received from those industries as a function of the member who had received the most. On the chart below, darker colors mean the members took in more cash from the finance sector.

It's clearly noticeable, particularly on the Democratic side, how those who had received the most in campaign contributions were also more likely to vote "yes" on the bill.

It's important to remember that there isn't as clear a line from campaign contributions to congressional votes as people often assume. That's a tough argument to make in this context, of course, but it's worth remembering that it's not clear in which direction the influence flows. Did the financial, et al., industries give to these members of Congress because they are more likely to be sympathetic on issues such as bank deregulation? Did Congress vote for deregulation because of the contributions? The answer is a third option: Influence is complex and often impossible to trace.

There is another important reason that people give to members of Congress: power. The No. 1 recipient of contributions from those industries is that dark red box in the middle of the Republican "yes" votes: Speaker John Boehner.

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