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Corporate Money in Politics? Old News.


Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-MD, speaks to reporters during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting at the JW Marriott hotel in Washington DC on Saturday, February 26, 2011.(Chet Susslin)

A major corporation has as much interest in good relations with a governor as it does in good ties to members of Congress. Insurance regulations, environmental rules, and even liquor laws vary by state, making it important for a corporation's government affairs division to keep an eye on state capitals as well as on Washington. One need only take a brief peek at both groups' filings with the IRS to demonstrate how successful each side's solicitations have been. The first few pages of the DGA's report reveal $350,000 from insurance giant Aetna and $50,000 from AFLAC; $85,000 from tobacco company Altria; and six-figure gifts from the American Beverage Association, AT&T and Amgen. The RGA has been combing through a very similar Rolodex; they reported similar gifts from almost all the same companies (and another $1 million from Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate funding Newt Gingrich's super PAC). By organizing as 527 organizations, the RGA and DGA should be ensuring there's no reason to form a gubernatorial super PAC; the purpose a super PAC serves for a federal candidate is already taken care of by the two party committees. While a super PAC donor might be justified in worrying that his or her contribution wouldn't be spend efficiently, the DGA and RGA are professional organizations that attract top political talent. Meanwhile, the NGA, a bipartisan group that organizes semi-annual events for governors to learn about best practices and developing trends, is no different from either party committee. Walking around this year's winter meeting, at a hotel in downtown Washington, it's clear just how crucial corporate money is to the organization's success. Corporate sponsors, all 147 who ponied up to be included in the meeting pamphlet, sign in at a separate registration desk. For all the hubbub over super PACs and their supposedly unprecedented influence on politics, there's really nothing new about corporate dollars flooding the system. Washington's most powerful interest groups have even closer ties to governors and the committees responsible for electing them -- and they were forging those bonds long before the Supreme Court allowed super PACs to influence federal politics with corporate dollars.

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