With the dust from the primaries settling, it’s time to assess where our presidential nominees stand in fundraising and what they’ve done to attract special interest support. Senator Hillary Clinton has been taking full advantage of the post-Citizens United world to stockpile $374 million (including $110 million through outside groups) since the beginning of the primary, warning of the onslaught she expected to face from Republicans in the general. This has ensured that she now has a massive advantage over the inexperienced Donald Trump ($90 million to campaign, $9.7 million to outside groups), who only recently started building his fundraising operation and has scared off many special interests with his rhetoric, even as he has filled his policies with special interest giveaways he hopes will attract the funding to help him catch up.
Both candidates are doing what all major candidates do in response to the need to raise special interest money: take populist positions in response to public outcry and appeal to special interest donors with more nuanced, less public positions, or simply staying silent on issues important to donors that might cost public support. From the DNC emails leaks, we also get the rare chance to see the other way that EVERY candidate has used to attract support BEFORE it happens: rewarding major donors with access to important political figures and appointments across the federal government.
The craziness of this election has created its own twists. A growing progressive movement boosted Senator Bernie Sanders and forced Senator Hillary Clinton to take stronger anti-special interest positions than she otherwise may have. Combined with Trump’s propensity to change positions quickly, we have two candidates who have shifted positions throughout this campaign, making it more difficult to pin down exactly what they would do on critical issues.
Furthermore, Clinton has gone into far greater specificity on her plans than Trump, who has provided almost no details, making it easier to identify specific ways her plans may help special interests. Trump’s overall approach is to deregulate major industries and cut taxes across the board, particularly for the wealthy, which would mean significant profits for most major special interests, but he also represents an unusually risky investment for major industries who aren’t sure they can trust him with the economy, part of the reason his special interest fundraising has not kept pace.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the industries backing Trump and Clinton so far and what those industries expect from the candidates. The numbers in this article are based on contributions to their campaigns, to Super PACs or both, drawn from on an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics at OpenSecret.org. They aggregated contributions from PACs, their individual members, employees or owners; and those individuals' immediate families to determine contributions from a company and industry.
Finance Sector: Investments, Social Security & Real Estate
The finance sector immediately jumps out as a major source for both candidates, just as it is the largest source for contributions to political candidates overall since 2010. The real estate industry has contributed more to Trump than any other industry ($678,000 to his campaign, $252,000 to outside groups), with miscellaneous finance the third largest industry ($124,000 to campaign, $250,000 to outside groups) and securities and investment his 11th largest ($93,000 to campaign, $16,000 to outside groups). The securities & investment industry is Clinton’s largest contributor ($5.8 million to campaign, $35.6 million to outside groups) and is responsible for nearly a third of the money sent to outside groups supporting her, while real estate is the fifth largest industry ($6.6 million to campaign, $2.3 million to outside groups) and miscellaneous finance is her 17th largest. Read more.
There are some issues that unite nearly all industries, especially major corporations traded on Wall Street: corporate taxes, the minimum wage and environmental regulations, especially global warming related. Most major industries, backed by their millions in contributions and lobbying, call for policies that maintain the status quo or make small changes rather than rapid ones to address our problems. For example, in addition to those outlined above, the business services ($6.4 million), construction services ($2.6 million) and miscellaneous business ($2.6 million) industries were all top 20 donors to Clinton while miscellaneous business ($415,000) was Trump’s second biggest industry and general contractors ($176,000), business services ($99,000), electronics manufacturing ($80,000), crop production ($79,000) were all among Trump’s top 20 industries. This causes our major political candidates to favor similar positions, even in the face of other major special interests or the public at large. Read more.
Lawyers and law firms contributed $21.4 million to Clinton’s campaign and $1.7 million to outside groups, making this industry her second largest industry after securities and investments. Lawyers typically favor Democrats who favor broader civil litigation rights for individuals to sue corporations, which the Supreme Court has recently undermined. Clinton is expected to appoint a Supreme Court nominee who will reaffirm these rights and generally favor legislation to enable lawsuits against corporations.
The entertainment industry, including television, music and movies, is Clinton’s third largest overall industry source, giving $3.8 million to her campaign and $13.9 million to outside groups, and Trump’s seventh largest source at $184,000 Given the general left-leaning nature of Hollywood and the significant resources available to its elite, it’s hardly a surprise that entertainment and celebrities would emerge as a major Clinton supporter, driven by large contributions to her Super PACs, but the glamour shouldn’t distract from the significant stake that this industry has in upcoming legislative outcomes. Read more.
Trump’s promises to overturn Obamacare have made him popular among health care professionals, his fourth largest industry group ($365,000) and the insurance industry, his ninth largest ($112,000). Trump also supports allowing insurers to shop across state lines, which would enable a race to the bottom insurance approach and reducing federal oversight of pharmaceutical drug companies, though pharmaceutical interests have contributed relatively little to his campaign so far.
Despite previously supporting universal health care, Clinton has consistently argued throughout this campaign that single-payer will never happen and favored expanding and fixing ObamaCare instead. Clinton has raised millions from industries generally opposed to singlepayer, including health professionals ($5.2 million to campaign), hospitals and nursing homes ($2.2 million to campaign), the pharmaceutical and health product industry ($3 million to outside groups, $834,000 to campaign) and pharmaceutical manufacturers ($363,000 to campaign). Whether she’ll continue her past championship of universal health care through something like a public option as president remains to be seen. Read more.