Monday, January 23, 2012

Which presidential candidates do lobbyists like?

Having a little more fun at the FEC website, I calculated the total dollar amounts received by presidential candidate through the end of November 2011 from individuals* who listed "lobbyist" as their occupations:

Presidential candidate
Lobbyist $
1. Rick Perry
2. Tim Pawlenty
3. Newt Gingrich
4. Mitt Romney
5. Rick Santorum
6. Herman Cain
7. Barack Obama
8. Jon Hunstman
9. Michelle Bachmann
10. Charles "Buddy" Roemer

Enjoying the influence that the governor of a large state does (or to a lesser extent the recent governor of a middling sized one) helps get the professional special pleaders to open their wallets up. So does having a long history of political consultancy work. Lest one think that being the current POTUS pales in comparison, Obama absolutely cleans up among those occupationally describing themselves as activists, garnering an astounding $36,128 of the $36,515--or 99%--that they have contributed thus far.

The astute reader may notice a conspicuous absence in the table above. Not a single self-described lobbyist has given Ron Paul a dime.

As for the seemingly trivial dollar amounts considered given the weightiness of the position being sought after, beyond rhetorically asking how many readers have made presidential campaign contributions of their own (not many I suspect--I certainly haven't--and we're intellectually vested in and follow this stuff a lot more closely than the general public does), the best I'm able to do is defer to Steve Sailer's reaction to Sheldon Adelson's $5 million dollar donation to a pro-Gingrich political action committee:
Is $5 million really headline news in politics these days? I feel very naive about this because I have no clue what the real deal is, but I've long noticed that when I'm reading stories about the political contributions of heavy hitters like Adelson and Haim Saban, the numbers tossed around about their donations don't seem all that staggering. Now, T. Boone Pickens giving $165 million to get Oklahoma State almost into the BCS title game -- that's significant money. But $5 million sounds like what some used car dealer ponies up to get his college football team's weight room refurbished, not the kind of serious moolah that may determine the course of American history. Reading these articles, I feel like I'm in that scene in Austin Powers where Dr. Evil is defrosted after 30 years and threatens to blow up the world if he's not given "One. Million. Dollars!"
* Consequently, PACs, political parties, and candidates' self-financed contributions are excluded. These excluded sources are, however, modest--some 98% of direct donations to 2012 presidential campaigns have come from individuals.


Audacious Epigone said...

The original post was mysteriously deleted. Perhaps I did it by accident, though I've never done that before... Anyway, via my caching system, here are the comments from the original post.


Anonymous said...

It looks like just being a memeber of the house of representatives doesn't get anywhere. I am sure ron paul would take lobbyist money if he could get it.
1/21/12 10:40 AM
Audacious Epigone said...

Funny to think that a legislator of several decades still qualifies as a political "outsider", but you're probably not off the mark.
1/21/12 10:44 PM
Noah172 said...

Do many people just not list their occupations? Or do they list their employer (e.g. a lobbying firm) rather than an occupational category? That probably skews the numbers.
1/23/12 9:53 AM
Audacious Epigone said...


I don't know the percentage breakdowns, but many people list employer and occupation (ie, "Google/computer programmer"). Undoubtedly there are lobbyists who've made donations that are not captured in this way, but I'm not sure it makes too much of a systematic difference in the way the relative amounts shake out (though it does introduce extra randomness).
1/23/12 1:54 PM

Jon Claerbout said...

The numbers you quote are peanuts compared to what flows to politicians. IMHO the big money is flowing some other route.