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Corporate America makes a windfall off "investment" in Washington
How big business buys the politicians

By Eric Ruder | April 8, 2005 | Page 2

IF YOU run a big corporation, you don't just get what you pay for from Washington. You get much, much more than you pay for.

In exchange for political contributions that amount to petty cash for them, some of America's largest companies are reaping a bumper crop this year--in looser environmental regulations, limitations on consumer lawsuits against them, bankruptcy "reform" and much more.

ExxonMobil, for example, has lobbied for drilling rights in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for more than a decade. It's now on the verge of achieving its goal. By 2025, almost 1 million barrels of crude oil a day could be pumped out of the area, according to government estimates--representing more than $20 billion in annual revenues for the oil industry at current prices.

A recent Senate vote of 51 to 49 on a provision in the government budget resolution helped ExxonMobil take another step toward its goal--and for a relatively low price. Over the past 10 years, ExxonMobil has given $5.2 million to Republicans.

Meanwhile, credit card giants and auto financing operations will make a windfall under the provisions of the new bankruptcy bill that will soon be signed into law by George W. Bush. MBNA, Credit Suisse First Boston, Bank of America and Wachovia were among the top 20 contributors to Bush's two presidential campaigns.

Each contributed a mere $300,000 apiece. In exchange, they will be able to force people who declare bankruptcy to repay a much greater share of their debts--burying them for years under bills.

"Ford Credit Co. and others would benefit from a provision that stipulates that all automobile loans be repaid in full by people who file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or the auto will be repossessed," the Washington Post reported. "Under current law, only the present value of the car must be repaid. Ford Motor donated more than 80 percent of its PAC money to [Republicans]."

And this is just the beginning. "These are not real high-profile, sexy issues like the war or Social Security, but they have huge economic consequences," Charles Black Jr., a Republican lobbyist and top fundraiser, told the Washington Post. "And there's more to come on that score."

Other big-ticket items on Corporate America's shopping list include limiting legal liabilities for drug companies, doctors, gun manufacturers and asbestos makers--and more tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

But big corporate campaign contributions don't go solely to the Republican Party. "Contrary to the belief of many, Democrats raise generous amounts of money from corporate interests," Steven Weiss, communications director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told Socialist Worker. "Although corporate interests overall give more money to Republicans, they give significant amounts of money to Democrats, too.

"For example, when we broke down corporate giving for the 2004 election cycle, business interests gave more than $1.5 billion in 2004, and 45 percent of it went to Democrats. The general rule is that money follows power, and contributions to a party in power are a much better investment than contributions to a minority party. Since Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, the proportion of money going to them has grown."

Washington's bipartisan establishment is proving once again that it can be bought by Corporate America--for a song.

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