Pork Illustrated

A new report sniffs out 1997’s worst Washington pork: outrageous paybacks to wealthy campaign donors.

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As some members of Congress do their best to kill campaign finance reform, one watchdog group is snapping at their crisp-creased pants: The Center for Responsive Politics earlier this month released its report “Campaign Finance from A to Z,” a revealing rundown of well-heeled donors cracking their wallets and getting what they want from Washington in 1997. Many of these donors contributed millions in the 1995-96 election cycle; CRP ran the numbers for the first half of 1997 and found a whole lot of palm-greasing going on — with more than a year until the next election. We present a sampling here; visit CRP’s Web site for the full report:

AUTOMAKERS, including Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler got two tax breaks in the budget bill signed by President Clinton this summer that would benefit their production of “clean-fuel” vehicles. Ford and Chrysler announced in June that they would begin selling cars and light trucks that can run on gasoline, ethanol, or a combination of the two. General Motors already sells electric vehicles, another type of alternative-fuel car. Environmentalists contend companies will use these new vehicles to circumvent federal fuel-efficiency standards. The three automakers distributed more than $300,000 in PAC contributions.

BOEING and McDonnell Douglas succeeded in getting their $16 billion merger approved by the Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission. When the European Commission’s anti-trust regulators challenged the Boeing deal, Congress urged the Clinton administration to rally on behalf of the aerospace giant. Boeing and McDonnell Douglas gave nearly $255,000 in PAC contributions, and Boeing gave the Democratic National Committee $90,000.

COMPUTER COMPANIES, which distributed nearly $162,000 in PAC contributions, lobbied Congress to extend the Foreign Sales Corporation tax benefit to software exports. This provision allowing computer companies to get a partial tax exemption for revenue generated from the sale, lease, or rental of software reproduced overseas was included in the tax bill signed into law this summer.

DEFENSE CONTRACTORS like Lockheed Martin came out on top in this year’s defense appropriations bill. The bill included $2.1 billion for the company’s F-22 tactical fighter plane, which will start up production in 1999. The defense measure’s conferees also added $83 million for three more of Lockheed’s F-16s — which were not requested by the administration. The defense contractor’s PAC gave more than $312,000.

ETHANOL producer Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) once again staved off attempts to cut the subsidy for this corn-based alcohol, when Rep. Bill Archer (R- Texas) failed to reduce the 5.4 cent subsidy by 3 cents as part of this summer’s tax package. ADM, whose CEO Dwayne Andreas is illustrated above, gave $85,000 in soft money and $55,000 in PAC contributions.

Contribution totals are inclusive from Jan. 1, 1997 through June 30, 1997.
Visit CRP’s Web site for F – Z.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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