- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The media’s haste to blame the Bush administration, inaccurately, for the Enron scandal was largely a product of a decades-long propaganda effort by Democrats to convince Americans that Republicans are the “party of the rich.” Much evidence, however, contradicts this stereotype.

Democrats certainly have shown no aversion to contributions from corporate America. One needs to look no further than Federal Election Commission records for the 2006 campaign season.

Seven of the top 10 candidates for U.S. Senate in fundraising were Democrats, as of the reporting period that ended Sept. 30.

Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York came in at No. 1 with $15.4 million, followed by Bill Nelson of Florida, fourth at $5.4 million; Maria Cantwell of Washington, fifth at $5.1 million; Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, seventh at $5 million; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, eighth at $4.1 million; John Kerry of Massachusetts, ninth at $4.1 million; and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, 10th at $3.7 million.

A list of top corporate political action committee (PAC) donors to Democrats for the 2006 campaign season as of Nov. 30, meanwhile, featured most of the same blue-chip companies that were giving to Republicans.

They include United Parcel Service ($226,173), AT&T; ($199,000), defense contractor Northrop Grumman ($198,500), insurance giant Aflac($193,500), General Electric ($193,350), defense contractor General Dynamics ($168,500), BellSouth ($166,100), defense contractors Boeing ($166,000) and Raytheon ($161,250), and cable giant Comcast ($153,950).

Reformers who promise to rid politics of the corrupting influence of big money have had little success in keeping wealthy donors from spending millions to elect Democrats.

Consider the PACs that contributed to the party’s top fundraiser, Mrs. Clinton. The biggest chunks of Mrs. Clinton’s PAC money through Sept. 30 came from organized labor ($141,170), law groups ($71,087) and single-issue advocates ($66,918). However, she also collected substantial sums from the health care industry ($62,900), finance and insurance interests ($59,000), the communications industry ($42,687), the retail and service sectors ($39,000), real estate and construction ($24,840), and defense ($19,000).

After the Enron scandal helped boost the issue of campaign-finance reform, President Bush signed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act into law in March 2002. The key provision limited previously unregulated “soft money” that the parties collected from big contributors.

When it looked like Democrats might suffer, though, rich friends soon found a loophole in nonprofit “issue advocacy” organizations — called “527s” for the IRS code that regulates them. During the 2004 election cycle, a group of wealthy liberals donated more than $80 million to 527s supporting Democrats.

The top 527 donors — financier George Soros (who gave $23.4 million), insurance mogul Peter Lewis ($23 million), Hollywood playboy Stephen Bing ($13.9 million), and mortgage bankers Herb and Marion Sandler ($13 million) — were all Democrats. Gateway computer founder Ted Waitt gave $5 million to Democratic 527s; venture capitalists Andy and Deborah Rappaport gave $4.3 million.

Democrats who smear Republicans as the party of the greedy rich have to overlook more than just a few big-money Democratic donors. There’s also the so-called “red state-blue state” divide. The “blue” states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 are far richer than the “red” states that voted for Mr. Bush.

“States with the highest per-capita income trend Democrat; the states with the lowest per-capita income trend Republican,” Jerry Bowyer reported for National Review Online, summarizing research by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. “The top 10 ‘blue states’ … had an average per-capita personal income of $36,327, which is 20 percent higher than the top 10 ‘red states,’ which had an average of $30,275.”

Mr. Bowyer found another difference: The Republican red states, despite lower average incomes, had substantially higher rates of economic growth than the pro-Democrat blue states. While the rich people in Democratic states are “old money,” he wrote, Republican voters in the red states are “immune to class guilt because they didn’t inherit their wealth.”

Democratic politicians themselves are, in many cases, stupendously wealthy. Nothing wrong with that, but rich Democrats sometimes get their money, and protect it from taxes, in ways that directly contradict their political rhetoric.

Mr. Kerry campaigned for president saying that the “super-rich” should pay more taxes. However, as Peter Schweizer of the Hoover Institution writes in his book “Do as I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy,” the Massachusetts senator and his heiress wife had a net worth exceeding $700 million but “were paying only 15 percent of their income in taxes.”

Mr. Kerry called for raising the taxes of those earning $200,000 a year — people who, according to the IRS, already were paying 25 percent of their income in taxes.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi supports organized labor and “affordable housing” for the poor and says that “the environment is a core value,” Mr. Schweizer notes.

However, Mrs. Pelosi and her husband, a California real-estate magnate, didn’t build a $50 million fortune by investing in affordable housing. The Pelosis invested instead in such upscale projects as a private golf development that damaged the environment in Santa Clara County.

If Republicans were really the party of the rich, it might be expected that all the fat cats and high rollers would be happy to donate generously to Mr. Bush, whom Democrats denounced as favoring “tax cuts for the rich.”

All told, Mr. Bush collected nearly $375 million for his re-election bid, about $26 million more than Mr. Kerry. (In other words, Mr. Kerry raised about 93 percent as much as Mr. Bush.)

But wait a minute. Although Mr. Bush had no real rivals for the Republican nomination, Mr. Kerry got the Democratic nomination only after defeating a large pack of other contenders. And each raised substantial sums: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean raised almost $53 million and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina raked in nearly $34 million. Even Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who ran as a socialist in all but name, managed more than $13 million.

Combine the coffers of the top seven Democratic candidates (who also included retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut) and the total raised comes to $518 million. Which means that the Democratic candidates raised $144 million more than the Republican incumbent.

If Republicans are the “party of the rich,” how could they be outspent by the party of the poor?

Copyright 2006 by Lynn Vincent and Robert Stacy McCain. Excerpt by arrangement with Nelson Current publishers.

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