Who Owns Congress? A Campaign Cash Seating Chart

What if members of Congress were seated not by party but according to their major business sponsors? We gave it a try.

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.

What if members of Congress were seated not by party but according to the industries which gave them the most money over their entire careers?


The Senate: Lawyers, Drugs, and Money


Finance, insurance, and real estate  57

Lawyers and lobbyists  25

Health  5

Agribusiness  3

Labor  2

Energy and natural resources  2

Miscellaneous business  2

Communications and electronics  1

No money raised  3

Total seats | 100

Sen. Charles Schumer

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Terms: 2 (9 in House)

Total raised: $62.2 million, 27% from finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE)

Top donors: A major defender of Wall Street interests before the crash, Schumer has netted more big bank money than any member of Congress who hasn’t run for president.

Sen. Scott Brown

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

Terms: 1

Total raised: $17 million, 7% from FIRE

Top donors: In the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, Brown’s biggest donors were Fidelity Investments, Bain Capital (Mitt Romney’s old firm), and Credit Suisse. But—whoops!—he voted for the financial regulation bill.

Sen. Mitch McConnell

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Terms: 5

Total raised: $37.2 million, 14% from FIRE

Top donors: The top Senate Republican’s most generous contributors have been US Smokeless Tobacco—now part of Altria, née Philip Morris—and Brown-Forman, the maker of Jack Daniel’s. Cheers!

Sen. Harry Reid

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Terms: 4 (2 in House)Total raised: $35.4 million, 17% from lawyers and lobbyists

Top donors: 5 out of the majority leader’s top 10 lifetime donors are casinos or gambling interests. The industry has bet more than $1.7 million on him, plus $1.3 mil on fellow Nevada Sen. John Ensign.

Sen. Barbara Boxer

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

Terms: 3 (5 in House)

Total raised: $75.3 million, 7% from lawyers and lobbyists

Top donors: Boxer is Hollywood’s favorite member of Congress (aside from Sen. John Kerry). Her second-biggest donor is Time Warner; Disney is sixth.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)

Terms: 2 (4 in House)

Total raised: $31.8 million, 12% from agribusiness

Top donors: The ranking member of the ag committee has never met a federal farm subsidy he didn’t like. He just happens to be Congress’ second-most bountiful recipient of agribusiness cash.

Sen. James Inhofe

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)

Terms: 4 (4 in House)

Total raised: $16.2 million, 13% from energy and natural resources

Top donors: Inhofe, who’s declared that “man-induced global warming is an article of religious faith,” has received more money from Koch Industries than any other company. The oil firm has given nearly $25 million to climate-change denial groups.



The House: Big Labor vs. Big Money


Labor  159

Finance, insurance, and real estate  159

Health  26

Agribusiness  23

Lawyers and lobbyists  20

Miscellaneous business  18

Energy and natural resources  10

Defense  7

Transportation  6

Communications and electronics  4

Construction  1

Unfilled seats  2

Total seats | 435

Rep. David Obey

Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.)

Terms: 21

Total raised: $10.8 million, 21% from labor

Top donors: The chair of the appropriations committee and a subcommittee with oversight of labor matters, is the House’s second-biggest recipient of union cash. Obey’s retiring in the face of a challenge from Real World star Sean Duffy.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

Terms: 12

Total raised: $11.9 million, 19% from FIRE

Top donors: Sure, her husband is a major real estate investor, but the biggest all-time donor to the speaker (who has her own Napa vineyard) has been California wine giant E&J Gallo.

Rep. Eric Cantor

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.)

Terms: 5

Total raised: $17.3 million, 24% from FIRE

Top donors: The top donor to the GOP whip, a leading opponent of cap-and-trade legislation, is Dominion Resources, a Virginia power company.

Rep. Jim Himes

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.)

Terms: 1

Total raised: $6.4 million, 25% from FIRE

Top donors: The freshman rep, a former Goldman Sachs veep, now collects campaign checks from the firm—more than any other House member. Financial regulation vote: Yes.

Rep. Ron Paul

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)

Terms: 7

Total raised: $50.5 million, 3% from FIRE

Top donors: GIs, meet geeks. The small-government libertarian’s biggest givers are members of the military, followed by Google and Microsoft employees.

Rep. Joe Barton

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)

Terms: 13

Total raised: $17.2 million, 19% from energy and natural resources

Top donors: Barton, who decried the “shakedown” of BP, has watched the cash flow from Anadarko Petroleum, owner of 25% of BP’s Deepwater Horizon well.

Rep. Ike Skelton

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.)

Terms: 17

Total raised: $8.3 million, 17% from defense

Top donors: The Armed Services Committee chair is—surprise!— Congress’ top recipient of defense-industry cash.




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