With the U.S. presidential election heating up, 24/7 Wall St. has examined public companies’ political contributions in the current election cycle. The donations include monies given to political parties, candidates and political action committees. The figures are staggering and have prompted many to ask whether money can buy a seat in the House, Senate or even the presidency itself.
The Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, the Romney Victory Fund and the Republican National Committee raised more than $76.8 million in May alone. This one month does not include what Romney and his supporters raised for the primaries or the growing amount he will need as the presidential election shifts into high gear. While President Obama has raised more overall, his campaign and the Democratic Party only raised $60 million for his re-election effort in May.
Political contributions, which used to go directly to candidates, now often flow to Super PACs, independent organizations that can raise money to either help or defeat a political candidate. Historically, traditional political action committees have been prohibited from accepting donations from unions and companies. However, following rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, Super PACs are now allowed to accept unlimited donations from unions and companies, provided the money does not go directly to the campaign.
The rise of the Super PAC has opened the door to a new generation of fundraising, changing how money is used to elect candidates and increasing the amount candidates need to raise to be competitive as they seek office.
Based on data collected and published by the Center for Responsive Politics on its website, opensecrets.org, 24/7 Wall St. has identified the 10 publicly traded companies contributing the most to candidates, political parties and PACs. The Center for Responsive Politics calculates total political contributions made by either companies’ PACs or employees within a given election cycle (beginning in January 1, 2011 for the 2012 cycle) that are over $200. 24/7 Wall St. also examined lobbying expenditure data, also published by the Center for Responsive politics. Finally, we relied on the 2012 Washington Technology Top 100 for revenue earned by the top government contractors.
In addition to the sums each company donated and to which political party, we also added how much these companies have spent on lobbying, which is counted separately from political donations. As tempting as it is, we did not speculate on the reasons behind the companies’ contributions.
This article originally appeared on 24/7 Wall St. on July 2, 2012.