Funds for Favors: Exposing Donors’ Influence on Committee Leaders EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Heading a committee in the House of Representatives

brings rewards beyond the chance to write important bills: an increase in campaign contributions from the same industries those committees are supposed to oversee. Research by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found as members grow in power and seniority, the industries they are responsible for regulating steer more and more money into their campaign coffers. Those members typically receive especially big jumps in industry donations during the election cycle immediately before assuming the chairmanship or ranking member position. CREW examined campaign contributions to the current chairmen and ranking members of 10 committees, analyzing them from the 1998 election cycle through the 2010 election cycle. Industry contributions to those members have skyrocketed during that period, increasing by nearly 600%, far more than the 230% increase in overall contributions to those members during the same period. During the 2010 election cycle, the industries examined by CREW donated more than $8.9 million to the chairmen and ranking members responsible for regulating them, making up 27% of the chairmen and ranking members’ total contributions. Those members had received just 13% of their campaign contributions from the same industry groups in the 1998 election cycle, when many were still relatively junior members of the committees they later rose to lead. With a few exceptions, CREW’s findings held true across industries, committees, and party affiliation, illustrating just how deeply the pay-to-play culture has penetrated the House of Representatives. For instance, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee has seen his donations from agriculture industries soar by 711% since 1998. That dwarfs the rate of growth of his total contributions, which grew by 274% over the same period. On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), chairman of the Financial Services Committee, has experienced a 620% increase in donations from the financial services industries since 1998. Overall, contributions to his campaign increased by 234%. Notably, Rep. Bachus earned nearly two-thirds of his total campaign contributions during the 2010 election cycle from industries regulated by his committee. CREW also found that since 2007, many committee leaders voted in agreement with the industries they regulate a majority of the time. In some cases, committee leaders voted

disproportionately in favor of industry positions compared to the average Democrat or Republican. CREW’s findings raise new questions about how beholden House committee chairmen and ranking members are to the industries they oversee, and whether they are independent enough to put public interest ahead of special interests.

METHODOLOGY CREW examined campaign contributions to standing House committee chairmen and ranking members from industries under the jurisdictions of their committees. CREW used the list of standing committees published by the House clerk’s office on May 9, 2011, as well as individual committee websites, to identify committee leaders. CREW used campaign contribution data tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), which identifies and categorizes individual contributions based on industry. 1 CREW relied on CRP’s list of committee-related industries for the six committees it tracks: Agriculture, Armed Services, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Natural Resources, and Transportation and Infrastructure. For the committees CRP does not track, CREW relied on CRP’s industry definitions and matched those industries with the committees that regulate them as outlined by House Rule 10 of the Rules for the 112th Congress. These committees include: Education and the Workforce; Homeland Security; Judiciary; and Science, Space, and Technology. Campaign contribution data includes the total amount received by the member’s campaign committee and political action committee (PAC) for each election cycle from 1998-2010. In several cases, a member’s PAC was initially formed sometime during that period and CREW noted the date of formation. CREW used voting data provided by, which maintains records of how each member of Congress voted on every bill, and uses public records to categorize which interest groups, companies, and organizations support and oppose key bills in Congress. Congressional voting data is included for the 110th Congress, 111th Congress, and the 112th Congress through September 30, 2011.


Campaign finance data was collected from CRP’s database in summer 2011 and does not reflect subsequent amendments.

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