> >March 14, 2000
> > Corporate Donors Help Democrats
> > Close the 'Soft Money' Gap With GOP
> > By JIM VANDEHEI
> > Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
> > WASHINGTON -- House Democrats are set to rake in $7
> > million at a glitzy fund-raiser Wednesday at the Marriott
> > Wardman hotel here, more than double the take for the same
> > event a year ago.
> > The difference? A major infusion of money from corporate
> > donors who not long ago were funneling most of their
> > contributions to the Republicans. Representatives from
> > Aflac Inc., General Dynamics Corp., AT&T Corp. and
> > BellSouth Corp. all played prominent roles in raising
> > for this year's Democratic event.
> > With a close battle shaping
> > up for control of the House,
> > more and more companies
> > are hedging their bets with
> > large "soft money"
> > contributions to Democrats,
> > new Federal Election
> > Commission records show.
> > Corporate lobbyists, who
> > want access and influence
> > regardless of who wins this
> > November, call it
> > self-preservation. "You try to do what is right for both
> > parties," says Larry Hamilton of Northrop Grumman Corp.
> > His company last year gave $12,000 to House Democrats
> > and $10,000 to Republicans. That was a sharp change from
> > the 1997-98 election cycle when it handed $81,000 to the
> > GOP and $16,000 to Democrats.
> > A number of companies -- including Anheuser-Busch Cos.,
> > Boeing Co., PG&E Corp., Aetna Inc. and Time Warner
> > Inc. -- actually delivered more of their unregulated
> > soft-money donations to Democrats in 1999 than to
> > Republicans, after several years of overwhelmingly
> > the GOP, according to FEC data compiled by Common
> > Cause, a citizens' watchdog group. Those records show
> > more than three dozen major corporations hedged their bets
> > in 1999 by cutting checks of roughly equal size to House
> > Democrats and Republicans.
> > Unlike direct political contributions to individual
> > which are capped at $10,000 per election, corporations can
> > give unlimited sums of soft money to Democrats and
> > Republicans to help bankroll so-called party-building
> > activities. Overall, the Democratic Congressional Campaign
> > Committee last year netted a party-record $11.9 million in
> > soft-money donations from corporations and their
> > Washington reps.
> > While the GOP raised $13.4 million, Republicans no longer
> > enjoy the decisive soft-money fund-raising edge from U.S.
> > companies they once held. "I think, frankly, there has
> > little more pressure from Democrats," a spokeswoman for
> > defense-contractor General Dynamics says. The company
> > essentially split its soft money evenly this time around,
> > giving $63,000 to the GOP in 1997-98 and $18,000 to
> > Democrats.
> > Much of the increase in business giving to Democrats
> > reflects an aggressive push by House Democratic Leader
> > Richard Gephardt of Missouri. In exchange for Mr.
> > Gephardt's promise of a more business-friendly Democratic
> > Party, dozens of companies have sharply increased their
> > soft-money contributions to House Democrats and
> > purchased an insurance policy in case Republicans lose
> > fragile, six-seat majority this fall.
> > Democratic officials say this investment by corporations
> > already has paid dividends for the party as Mr. Gephardt
> > has agreed to elevate the role of pro-business Democrats
> > and remain strategically coy about his reluctance to grant
> > China liberalized trading rights. Most Democrats oppose
> > China-trade legislation, which the Clinton administration
> > businesses are advocating. "Dick Gephardt has done a very
> > successful job of listening to and often responding to the
> > business community," says Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, a
> > moderate Democrat who has been critical of Mr. Gephardt's
> > treatment of pro-business members in the past.
> > The nearly $12 million in corporate soft money that the
> > Democratic leader helped raise last year is twice as much
> > was raised from corporate leaders a year earlier and
> > four times the 1997 total. "We have made a concerted
> > to go after these people," a senior political adviser to
> > Gephardt says. "It has worked."
> > Although House Republicans managed to raise slightly more
> > corporate soft money than the Democrats did last year,
> > Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois witnessed his party's
> > historic dominance in this area evaporate. Last election
> > cycle, House Republicans raised more than twice as much
> > soft money as Democrats.
> > Mr. Gephardt's ability to coax money from the defense,
> > high-tech, gambling and alcohol industries in particular
> > Mr. Hastert scrambling to reverse the trend immediately.
> > Dan Mattoon, a former lobbyist with BellSouth, was hired
> > late last year as deputy chairman at the National
> > Congressional Committee to help solve this problem. In
> > recent weeks, he has revamped the committee's finance team
> > as a result of these fund-raising woes.
> > Mr. Mattoon is quick to stress that corporate political
> > committees continue to hand GOP candidates 58% of their
> > money and a majority, albeit a much slimmer one, of their
> > soft money. PAC money, which is harder to raise and easier
> > to spend, typically flows from companies to members who
> > have time-tested, pro-business voting records. So it isn't
> > surprise House Republicans enjoy a distinct advantage in
> > this category. PAC money "will be supreme in the 2000
> > election, and we still out raise them there," Mr. Mattoon
> > says. But he concedes the NRCC has been forced to "make
> > some midcourse corrections" to plug the soft-money leak.
> > Mr. Mattoon now meets regularly with business officials.
> > recently began a program to reward business donors who
> > give 75% of their money to the GOP with private time with
> > top Republicans, including Speaker Hastert.
> > Mr. Mattoon says his party will raise a record $5.4
> > its own annual fund-raising gala Thursday. In the end, he
> > says, businesses will learn that siding with Democrats is
> > bum deal, especially when Congress votes on normalizing
> > the U.S.'s trading relationship with China.
> > "The business community will be able to tell quite quickly
> > this is a wink and nod, or if this is a serious shift by
> > Gephardt," Mr. Mattoon says. "We'll see if he really does
> > have a business backbone."
> > Mr. Gephardt is likely to vote against freer trade with
> > unless major alterations are made to President Clinton's
> > proposal, Democratic officials says. But he has privately
> > assured several business leaders that he won't wield his
> > power to turn Democrats against it. "He will not break any
> > arms to get this done," the adviser says.
> > Meantime, Mr. Gephardt plans to use a portion of increased
> > donations to finance a nationwide media campaign in the
> > months leading up to the November elections, Democratic
> > officials say. "We are playing for keeps, and I think that
> > attractive" to corporate America, says DCCC Chairman
> > Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.
> > Write to: Jim Vandehei at jim.vandehei at wsj.com