State of Money in Politics: Wall Street, other major industries trending left

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This story is the second in a four-part series analyzing money-in-politics trends from the 2018 midterms that will continue to have an impact on 2020 and future elections. CRP Executive Director Sheila Krumholz will present crucial campaign finance trends and figures during "Most Expensive Midterm Ever: What the Numbers Tell Us about Spending on the 2018 Federal Elections," an event hosted by FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub, on Feb. 21 at 1:30 p.m.

Which party does Wall Street give more money to? Democrats or Republicans?

The answer can vary wildly depending on the election cycle. In 2014, the Securities & Investment industry gave more than 59 percent of its candidate contributions to Republicans as the GOP experienced massive gains in Congress. But in 2018, the industry gave 62 percent of its contributions to Democrats as they took control of the House.

Bankers and hedge fund managers aren’t alone in their recent enthusiasm for Democrats. Employees in nearly every industry gave more to Democrats in 2018 than during the previous midterm cycle.

This widespread shift isn’t surprising, given that Democratic candidates handily outraised their rivals in 2018. But these numbers are very bad news for Republicans. For the GOP to recover in 2020, this trend cannot continue.

Donors who list their occupation as Retired more than doubled their 2014 spending this cycle, jumping from less than $81 million to nearly $195 million and claiming the title of top contributing industry. Fifty-nine percent of that money went to Democratic candidates compared to just 43 percent in 2014.

Lawyers/Law Firms came in second among industries contributing to candidates, giving $130 million this cycle after giving $78 million in 2014. Only $26 million of those 2018 dollars went to Republicans.

Educators splurged, giving $56 million to federal candidates — $50 million of which went to Democrats — a major jump over $19 million in 2014. In both 2016 and 2018, 85 percent of more contributions from educators went to Democrats. Women’s Issues, bolstered by the rising influence of EMILY’s List, experienced a major increase from $8 million to $20 million as female Democratic candidates had their most successful election cycle ever.

Groups categorized as Democratic/Liberal interests underwent one of the largest increases in spending. After giving just $7 million total in 2014, these groups handed out more than $39 million to Democratic candidates in 2018, demonstrating just how much fundraising momentum liberal groups had following the election of President Donald Trump.

Oil & Gas accomplished a rare feat by contributing fewer dollars to candidates cycle-over-cycle. The industry gave a total of $27 million after shelling out $32 million to candidates in 2014. The industry instead focused its efforts on giving more to outside groups — $83 million over $66 million.

Industry contributions to outside groups are typically less representative of the industry’s employees as these numbers heavily swayed by massive contributions from megadonors and corporations who are allowed to give unlimited amounts of money to super PACs and other outside groups.

Among oil companies, Koch Industries directly gave $3 million to the Koch-aligned Freedom Partners Action Fund and $2 million to Americans for Prosperity Action, among other groups. Chevron gave $1.9 million and $1.75 million in corporate funds to conservative super PACs Senate Leadership Fund and Congressional Leadership Fund, respectively.

Still, corporations don’t make as big an impact as individual megadonors. Miriam Adelson, who lists Adelson Drug Clinic as her employer on major contributions to super PACs, accounts for more than $60 million of the $84 million the Health Services/HMOs field contributed to groups in 2018. Her husband Sheldon Adelson, who lists his casino Las Vegas Sands as his employer, accounts for more than $60 million of the total $91 million Casinos gave to groups.

Contributing $95 million, Michael Bloomberg makes up more than half of the Misc. Finance industry’s giving to outside groups.

Among industries giving to outside groups, Securities & Investment ($392 million) and Retired ($383 million) are the top two dogs. Real Estate comes in third with $187 million handed out to groups.

Even among industry contributions to outside groups, the swing toward Democrats is evident. Each of the top five most generous industries gave a higher percentage of funds to liberal groups in 2018 than in 2014, another trend that likely worries Republican candidates entering 2020.

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