Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
False
DeMint
"The big Wall Street banks, the big corporations" give "many times more" political donations to Democrats than Republicans.  

Jim DeMint on Friday, March 7th, 2014 in an interview

Jim DeMint says Wall Street gives much more to Democrats than Republicans

In recent years, political contributions from Wall Street and corporations have sometimes favored Democrats but more so Republicans. And the margins usually aren't many times more.

When Politico Magazine ran an article about Jim DeMint, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, it posed this question with its headline:

"Is Jim DeMint the Most Hated Man in Washington?"

The former U.S. senator from South Carolina, according to the article, had made a sport of bashing fellow Republicans.

Four days later, on March 7, 2014, conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes asked the same question of DeMint during an interview on WTMJ-AM (620) in Milwaukee.

DeMint called the label a badge of honor. And when the conversation turned to connections between the federal government and big business, he contradicted conventional political wisdom.

"The big Wall Street banks, the big corporations," DeMint asserted, give "many times more" in political contributions to Democrats than Republicans.

The "many times more" made us curious.

DeMint's take

Here's the part of the interview where DeMint made his statement.

Sykes: "It’s an interesting point when we talk about the crony capitalism, because I think that the Left would like people to believe that somehow that big government is a rival to big business. And your point is, no, in fact, big business likes big government, big government likes big business and they conspire together against the little guy.

"You are describing crony capitalism here. But isn’t this kind of a problem that conservatives and Republicans have faced -- that, particularly in 2012, the Left rather successfully characterized conservatives as the party of big business, as the party of that kind of crony capitalism. What do Republicans and conservatives need to do to shake that image?"

DeMint: "Well, it’s so false. I mean, it amazed me while I was in Congress to see the big Wall Street banks, the big corporations -- they give more to Democrats, many times more, than they do to Republicans because the big government, and the more it grows, the more it advantages them."

DeMint essentially made a present-tense claim, but he also referenced his time in Congress --  he served in the Senate from January 2005 until April 2013, when he left for the Heritage Foundation.

We’ll also note that the context of his remarks were of all Washington, not just the House or Senate.

So, we will evaluate contributions going back to 2005 to see if Democrats received "many more times" in political contributions than Republicans from both groups: Wall Street banks and corporations.

DeMint’s evidence

When we requested information to back the Wall Street banks part of DeMint’s claim, Heritage Foundation spokesman Jim Weidman cited several articles, most of which highlighted the fund-raising success of Barack Obama, both during his run as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 and his run for re-election in 2012.

None of the articles, however, said that on the whole Democrats were raising several times as much money as Republicans in the financial sector.

For the corporations part of DeMint’s claim, a 2008 article said that for the first time in a decade, corporations were spending more money to elect Democrats than Republicans.

But again, no evidence that Democrats were collecting many times more in donations than Republicans.

Some of the articles DeMint cited quoted figures from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which runs the OpenSecrets.org website to track political donations. The center is a widely quoted authority. Let’s see what they have.

Digging into the data

Here are breakdowns of the center’s data over the past five two-year election cycles, dating back to when DeMint first entered the U.S. Senate in 2005.

Cycles begin with an odd-numbered year. So, the 2006 cycle encompasses 2005 and 2006, 2008 encompasses 2007 and 2008, etc.

Wall Street, or Wall Street banks, are not a specific category of donors. But the center told us that people interested in political contributions from Wall Street typically look at three categories: securities and investment, hedge funds and commercial banks.

Securities & Investment

   

Election cycle

Donations to Democrats

Donations to Republicans

2006

$42.3 million

$37.1 million

2008

$100.5 million

$74 million

2010

$49.1 million

$50.8 million

2012

$59.3 million

$130.9 million

2014

$17.6 million

$30 million

 

So, in securities and investment, Democrats led Republicans in two of the five cycles, but Republicans led in the three most recent cycles.

And the largest margin for Democrats was 58 percent to 42 percent in 2008 -- nowhere near the "many times more" DeMint claimed.

The largest for Republicans was 69 percent to 31 percent in 2012.

Hedge Funds

   

Election cycle

Donations to Democrats

Donations to Republicans

2006

$4.17 million

$1.44 million

2008

$13.3 million

$6.6 million

2010

$5.88 million

$6.4 million

2012

$4.06 million

$12.5 million

2014

$1.75 million

$3.69 million

In hedge funds, Democrats did have nearly a 3-to-1 advantage -- 74 percent to 25 percent in 2006. But that is just one cycle, dating back eight years.

As in the much larger securities and investment category, Republicans led in the three most recent cycles.

The Republicans’ best margin was 75 percent to 25 percent in 2012.

Commercial Banks

   

Election cycle

Donations to Democrats

Donations to Republicans

2006

$9.91 million

$15.8 million

2008

$18.5 million

$19.9 million

2010

$8.28 million

$13.6 million

2012

$10.7 million

$26.4 million

2014

3.3 million

$7.63 million

Democrats didn’t lead in the commercial banks category in any of the five election cycles.

As for calculating corporation money, that is more complicated.

The broadest classification of political donors separates them into business, labor, or ideological interests. according to the Center for Responsive Politics. "Business" contributions from individuals are based on the donor's occupation/employer. Since nearly everyone works for someone, and since union affiliation is not listed on FEC reports, totals for business are somewhat overstated, while labor is understated. Still, the base of large individual donors is predominantly made up of business executives and professionals. Contributions under $200 are not included in these numbers, as they are not itemized.

Here’s a breakdown for total business contributions -- from individuals and political action committees:

Business

   

Election cycle

Donations to Democrats

Donations to Republicans

2006

$510.4 million

$645.1 million

2008

$1.1 billion

$917.4 million

2010

$654.6 million

$632.1 million

2012

$883.4 million

$1.27 billion

2014

$228.5 million

$316.4 million


There’s a similar pattern here, with Republicans leading in the two most recent election cycles and three of the five cycles overall. The Democrats’ best edge was 55 percent to 45 percent in 2008, far from even a 2-to-1 margin. The Republicans’ best advantage was 59 percent to 41 percent in 2012.

Our rating

DeMint said that the "big Wall Street banks, the big corporations" give "many times more" political donations to Democrats than Republicans and he referred to his time in the U.S. Senate from 2005 to 2013.

Democrats raised nearly three times more than Republicans in one financial sector in one election cycle. But for the most part, when they led their margins were much smaller. And in recent cycles, Republicans have led in money from Wall Street and business.

We rate DeMint’s statement False.