Welcome to the 2013 Crony Capitalist Awards: Senate Edition. For these awards we define crony capitalism as the disproportionate influence by special interests (non-individuals) on elected officials. One of the founding principles of our country was no taxation without representation. Having to “pay to play” is merely another tax. And not being able to “pay to play” just another negative freedom.
Let's look at what percentage of tax “individuals*” pay nationally, and what percentage of tax corporations pay nationally to establish the benchmark, this reveals which legislators are-and-are-not de facto disproportionately influenced by special interests (which are overwhelmingly commercial.) It is important to note that nonprofits pay no tax, are not individuals, and for these awards are likewise special interests. (*Note: Large individual donors are limited to $2600 in 2013.)
I was pleasantly surprised that there actually were Senators who were not disproportionately influenced by these standards. Here are the watersheds: Corporate tax revenue as a percentage of total government revenue depending on the year is roughly 8% or 9%, here’s another 9%.
Our benchmark for a non-crony capitalist Senator is one that takes less than or equal to 9% of their contributions from non-individuals. The results are absolutely fascinating. We’ll divide them into the categories of the Good, Bad, and Worst.
Here are the Worst: The Senator with the lowest percentage of campaign contributions from individuals in 2013 is…
Mike Enzi (R-WY) who took a pinnacle 79% of campaign contributions from non-individuals.
The runner-up, a close second place is John McCain (R-AZ) who took the penultimate 72% of campaign contributions from non-individuals.
Third Place goes to Thomas R. Carper (D-DE) who took 62% of campaign contributions from non-individuals.
Congratulations, Senators, you’d think with your longevity that We, the People would have greater enthusiasm by contributing more to your re-election than special interest groups. I believe, this information validates the opinions of a vast supermajority of Americans who want Term Limits for Congress. That was the topic of last week’s column, and the sixth most important issue for omnibus electoral reform through a passable, wildly popular by-design Constitutional Amendment being explored through an ongoing series here.
By the way, does it rub you wrong that interests outside of States can influence the election of States' Senators? It seems unfair to me—States’ rights and all that. Apparently, even States can be bullied by the duopoly.
To round out the list, here are the Senators that took 50% or more (a majority) from non-individuals. One could get the impression that special interests might be getting a majority of these Senator’s time, too.
4th Ron Johnson (R-WI) at 61%
5th Robert F. Bennett (R-UT) at 58%
6th Pat Roberts (R-KS) at 56%
7th Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) at 56%
8th Tim Johnson (D-SD) at 56%
9th Mike Johanns (R-NE) at 56%
10th Mike Crapo (R-ID) at 56%
11th Edward Markey (D-MA) at 55%
12th Chuck Grassley (R-IA) at 55%
13th Richard Shelby (R-AL) at 53%
14th John Barrasso (R-WY) at 53%
15th Thad Cochran (R-MS) at 50%
Now, for the Senators who are NOT subject to disproportionate influence by these standards.
The winner is Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who took only 3% of campaign contributions from non-individuals. Actually, you could get the impression that she is ever-so slightly under-representing US special interests as a percentage of the tax they pay.
Second place goes to Maria Cantwell (D-WA) at 6%.
Third place goes to Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) at 8%.
And the only other non-crony capitalist is Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at a perfect 9%.
However, we need to give honorable mention to Senators who appear to have made a valiant effort by taking less than 20% of their campaign contributions from corporations, nonprofits, and industries they regulate (kind of the 80-20 rule)…
Tim Kaine (D-VA) at 11%
Rand Paul (R-KY) at 11%
Marco Rubio (R-FL) at 13%
Pat Toomey (R-PA) 16%
Ted Cruz (R-TX) at 17%
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) at 18%
Angus King (I-ME) at 18%
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) at 19%
Mark Kirk (R-IL) at 19%
Christopher Murphy (D-CT) at 19%
While technically still disproportionately influenced, it’s obvious they’re trying. They can make amends by passing meaningful campaign finance reform. Poetically, that is within their power.
Now, these awards are not mutually exclusive in the category of crony capitalists. Angus King (I-ME) was prominently featured in Peter Schweizer’s book Throw Them All Out.
The remaining unnamed Senators take between 21% and 49% of their campaign contributions disproportionately from corporations, nonprofits, and industries they regulate. The exceptions are Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) because they were appointed to the Senate. So maybe we don’t throw all of them out, Peter, just 94 out of 100.
The data for these awards are courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics at OpenSecrets.org. We linked the best and worst records for your review. Just scroll to the bottom of the Senator’s page for Cycle Source of Funds, 2007-20012, Campaign Committee Only, and take Total Individual Contributions % away from 100% to verify the results. If your Senator(s) were not mentioned above, I invite you to look them up yourself. It’s fun and free!
Congratulations, Ladies and Gentleman: Senators Warren, Cantwell, Baldwin, Sanders for being the four who righteously lost the 2013 Crony Capitalist Awards. To the rest of the Senate, please stop dithering, and pass meaningful campaign finance reform and term limits—you’ve so earned it.
Stay tuned to the GREATER Platform for the 2013 Crony Capitalist Awards: House of Representatives Edition, coming soon.