The Gentleman From Victoria’s Secret Yields to the Lady From Amway

Lawmakers’ most generous donors of all time, from the predictable to the absurd.

Illustration: Steve Brodner

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Read also: The rest of this special report, a note on sourcing, and MoJo‘s daily political coverage.

Lawmakers’ most generous donors of all time, from the predictable to the absurd.

Booze Lobby
16 members slurp up the most liquid assets from liquor makers and distributors, including 6 whose top donor is the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Gridiron Bloc
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) scored $49K from the Pittsburgh Steelers, his top donor. His uncle owns the team; his grandfather founded it.

Lingerie Caucus
Columbus-based Limited Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, has Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) amply covered. Its employees and PACs have given him $113,450.

Smokers’ Corner
Reynolds American, which owns R.J. Reynolds, blows more cash into the coffers of North Carolina Republicans Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Virginia Foxx than any other donor.

Vampire Squid Caucus
Goldman Sachs is the third-biggest overall corporate giver since 1989. (See previous page.) It’s also the top lifetime donor to 5 members: Rep. Michael McMahon (D-N.Y.), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Trickle-Up Economic Caucus
Multi-level marketing companies—where salespeople get commissions for signing up new salespeople in their “downline”—hand out top incentives to 4 members: Herbalife supplements Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), while Nu Skin revitalizes Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)—its former spokesman. Amway is the top bankroller of Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), who got her start in politics while selling for the company.

Drill, Baby, Drill Caucus
Oil rig operator Edison Chouest pumps the most money into the bank accounts of 4 members from its home state of Louisiana.

BP Caucus
As oil companies go, BP isn’t a huge donor (No. 9 in its industry in ’08). Its biggest-ever recipient is Barack Obama, with more than $77,000. Most of the current members whom BP has greased most generously (right) sit on an energy, environment, or natural resources committee.

Mickey Mouse Club
Disney is the No. 1 source of cheese for Senate Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

What’s Good for General Motors…
GM is the most powerful campaign-finance engine for 3 Michigan lawmakers. In 2008, the automaker’s PAC handed out nearly $623,000 (Toyota spent $0). Since being taken over by the feds in 2009, it’s given nothing.

No. 2 With a Bullet
Three members’ second-biggest donor is the NRA, including Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.V.), who got shot down in this year’s primary.

The CO2 Is Good for You Caucus
Koch Industries, an oil company and funder of climate-change denial groups, is the top donor to 4 members. 6 members get anything but coal in their stockings from Southern Company, a major sponsor of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which lobbies against climate legislation. Other ACCCE companies on the top donor list include Foundation Coal (2 members) and American Electric Power (1 member).

The Overnight Caucus
FedEx delivers the most cash to 7 members, 5 of whom hail from its home state of Tennessee; rival UPS ships the most to 4.

Blue Screen of Death Caucus
Microsoft, Congress’ 13th-biggest corporate giver since 1989, is the top donor to 6 members—all from Washington state. Google is 2010’s third-biggest tech-industry giver. Apple doesn’t even have an iPAC.

Seat-Warmer Caucus
Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who assumed Obama’s old seat, has raised a puny $93,000. His top donors ($3,000) are the owners of Iceberg Enterprises, a Chicago-area office furniture supplier.

Quik Cash Caucus
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) gets her biggest advances from QC Holdings, a payday loan company based in her district.

Sam’s Club
Wal-Mart is the No. 1 donor to Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.). It’s Arkansas Democrat Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s No. 2.

Rolling the Dice
6 members hit the jackpot with casinos or gambling outfits. Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) got a $76,300 payout from the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians, whose casino is next to his district. He’s against internet gambling, which competes with casinos.

A League of His Own
The League of Conservation Voters has given the most green to Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), the only member with an environmental group in the top contributor slot.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

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.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend