If you believe the mainstream media, the Republican Party is the party of big business. If you look at the facts, though, you see a different story. Actually, perhaps the favorite politician of big business is also one of the most liberal members of Congress: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.).
That Schumer is a liberal is well known. The American Conservative Union gives him a lifetime rating of only 6%. The National Taxpayers’ Union has given Schumer an F every year he’s been in the Senate. Schumer’s score with the Family Research Council was 14% last year. The liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) gave him a 100% last year, and his lifetime ADA score is 98%.
Most important to the left, Schumer has led the assault on President Bush’s judicial nominees, many of whom, including Priscilla Owen, have come under attack for being too favorable to big business.
But Schumer clearly is doing something big business likes, as his campaign finance records show. According the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a George Soros-funded non-profit that tracks money in politics, Chuck Schumer was the top recipient of campaign cash from many industries in 2004 among all politicians aside from presidential candidates.
Since the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance laws, corporations may not make contributions to federal candidates. But CRP tracks political donors’ employers, and breaks individual contributions down by industry. Each industry tends to have favorite lawmakers.
Setting aside the myth that the suits on Wall Street are all free-market capitalists, it’s no surprise that Schumer is the favorite lawmaker of the securities and investment industry. The $1.3 million he received in 2003 and 2004 alone was bested only by Kerry’s $4.4 million. In fact, among senators besides Kerry, the top five beneficiaries of Wall Street’s contributions were all Democrats. Number six was liberal Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
The accounting industry, at the heart of the Enron and WorldCom scandals of 2002, has Schumer at the top of their list. His $191,474 from accountants was again exceeded only by Kerry in the upper chamber.
Real state was also very generous with Schumer, lavishing $704,551 on him in the 2004 cycle, putting him ahead of all politicians besides a few of the presidential candidates (and ahead of many of the lesser presidential hopefuls).
Schumer was in the top three lawmakers for gifts from architects, the liquor industry, commercial banks, the dairy industry, software, subcontractors, and textiles. Most surprisingly, perhaps, Schumer received more money from the much-maligned tobacco industry than any other senator, including Kentucky’s Jim Bunning, who faced a very tough reelection in 2004.
All of this money came in a year when Schumer was never truly threatened by his Republican opponent. From his arrival in the Senate in 1999 to his reelection last year, Schumer raised a startling $27.5 million. While most of that money was from big business, much of it was from the most liberal special interest groups. Among gay and lesbian groups, for example, Schumer was the No. 2 recipient, and the same was true among pro-choice groups in 2003 and 2004.
‘Group of 35’
It is this fundraising skill that made Schumer the natural choice of his colleagues to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). It has proven to be a wise choice. While the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are being severely outpaced by their Republican counterparts, Schumer’s DSCC, at the end of the first quarter of 2005, had twice the cash on hand as the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
While Schumer is an unabashed advocate of big government, he is also a dedicated ally of big business. For him, government intervention and the success of big business go hand-in-hand.
For example, in 2001, Schumer and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin formed a “Group of 35,” business, political, and labor leaders in New York City. They advocated the use of condemnation and eminent domain takings along with special targeted tax breaks for developers in order to increase the commercial capacity of Manhattan.
As the Democrats try to make a dent in the GOP Senate majority, they will benefit in 2006 from having big business’s favorite senator heading the effort.