The Art of Giving
Two infotech companies won slots in the list of top 20 political action committee contributors compiled by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. They were AT&T, which donated $2.1 million, and Ernst & Young, which donated $1.6 million. Most of the other top 20 contributors were professional associations, such as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and labor unions, including the National Education Association.
AT&T executives "try to keep things in balance with both sides of the aisle," said Carol Wilner, AT&T's director of federal government affairs. "We have allies on both sides," and in every level of government, she said.
Another major donor during the two-year period was MCI Communications Corp., which donated $787,000, of which more than 50 percent went to the Democratic Party. "We try to influence the public debate by speaking out" on issues of interest to MCI, said MCI's Washington-based policy chief, Jonathan Sallet.
Ameritech Corp.'s $545,854 in donations went "to the people who have the same philosophical approach that we have," said Richard Notebaert, Ameritech's chief executive officer.
Ameritech donated to at least 243 congressional incumbents and candidates preceding the November election. Republicans got $389,977, while Democrats received $155,877.
Ameritech gave plenty of money to politicians active in infotech: $3,500 to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Wash., $4,500 to Rep. Rick White, R-Wash., and $6,951 to Larry Pressler, R-S.D., who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee. "We work with people when they are elected," said Notebaert.
These contributions are only part of each politicians' war chest. For example, Ameritech's $4,500 gift to White is only a small part of his $1.1 million campaign fund, of which 60 percent came from individuals, not companies, according to Federal Election Commission data.
Ameritech's largest donations went to home-state politicians in Illinois. Republican Rep. Michael Flanagan received $10,875, Republican Rep. Donald Manzullo received $4,500 and Republican John Shimkus received $7,000.
Hedging its bets, Ameritech also donated $5,000 to Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.
According to the Election Commission data provided by the Center, Notebaert personally donated at least $3,100 to several political figures, including $500 to Pressler.
INFOTECH'S POLITICAL DONATIONS
TotalDemocratsRepublicansDem PctGOP Pct
Source: Center for Responsive Politics