Which Special Interests Are Partisan?

An analysis we published earlier this year, “Is Union Reform Partisan,” documented the fact that about 95% of political contributions by unions go to the Democratic party. But is corporate political spending is less partisan than union political spending? Equally important, to what extent does corporate political spending outweigh political spending by unions?

Parsing data from, again, “a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics,” what follows is information on all of the top 100 political spenders during the eleven election cycles between 1990 through 2010. These top 100 are divided into four categories; corporate, financial, union, and grassroots. The results were quite surprising, as summarized on the chart below:

The data used to generate these numbers comes from’s “Top All-Time Donors, 1990-2010” table, which were downloaded onto spreadsheets and sorted into the four categories noted, while retaining in the far left column the rank of each contributor within the top 100. So the reader may view the assumptions, all four of these tables constitute the remainder of this post.

Readers are invited to mull the implications of these findings regarding the top 100 political spenders of the last 20 years in America:

1 – The corporate and financial sectors combined did outspend unions, by a ratio of almost exactly 2-to-1.

2 – Unions spent 95% of their contributions on Democrats.

3 – The corporate sector spent 56% of their contributions on Republicans, and the financial sector spent 53% of their contributions on Republicans. Their spending between the two parties was essentially nonpartisan.

4 – Overall, among the top 100 political spenders of the last 20 years, Democrats collected 62% of the takings, and Republicans only collected 38%.

It remains open to interpretation which party might be more beholden to special interests…

Here is the data:

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