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Lobbyist Money Help  

Both Sides

September 14, 2000
By: Kate Miller
State Capital Bureau
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JEFFERSON CITY - Special interest groups are increasingly giving to both candidates in contested races in an effort to further their cause regardless of the election's outcome, according to a study that will be released today by the Missouri Alliance for Campaign Reform.

The trend was most evident in Missouri's governor's race where 158 two-sided contributors had given $605,041 by June 30.

The study found that Anheuser Busch and its associated companies hedged its bets far more than any other contributor. From Jan. 1999 to June 30, 2000, the company gave $90,000 to Talent and $56,226 to Holden.

The Southwestern Bell Missouri PAC was the state's second largest two-sided contributor giving $21,075 each to Talent and Holden.

Southwestern Bell spokesman Mike Peterson said the PAC gave money to both sides to ensure its views would be heard.

"We were willing to contribute to both candidates because one, this is an important race and its critical that both candidates get their message out. It also gives us the opportunity to express our views and concerns regardless of who the winner is," he said.

The large amounts are partially due to the timing of the study, which used contribution disclosures from January 1999 to June 30, 2000. These dates coincide with a court-ordered injunction on contribution limits which have since been reinstated at $1,125 for candidates for major statewide offices including governor. The contribution limit applies to every contributor except party committees.

The Alliance characterized the findings of the study as yet another example that campaign contributions have nothing to do with political expression and everything to do with buying access. Rick Hardy, a UM political science associate professor and former GOP Congressional candidate, agrees.

"If you're giving to people on opposite sides, it says you are after more than expressing your views -- you are ensuring access," he said. Over the years, many lobbyists have agreed -- that the principle objective of campaign contributions by their clients is for office-holder access.

As for the uneven contributions to political opponents, Hardy said the largest amount is likely given to the candidate, usually the incumbent, most likely to win. The smaller amount is given to the underdog as a sort of insurance policy when they sense the favored candidate might be in trouble, he said.

Patrick Harvey, director of the organization releasing the study, said contributing to both sides was not a new phenomenon, but the practice had grown significantly in scale like everything else related to campaign finance.

"The extent to which (business) owners feel like they have to give in and give to everybody is growing," he said.

The pressure has apparently spread to small business owners who have given to both sides in several senate races as well. State senate candidates have received almost $30,000 from contributors giving to more than one candidate with Anheuser Busch giving only $4,200.

The study by the St. Louis-based advocacy group was based on contribution reports filed by candidates throughout the state with the Missouri Ethics Commission.