I spent Tuesday picking on Rep. Rob Bishop, so it’s only fair to look today at Sen. Orrin Hatch, whose campaign fundraising makes Bishop look like a piker.
Campaign donations, either by individuals or corporate political action committees are legal, but Tuesday’s column pointed out how much money Bishop gets from corporate interests that have a stake in national defense spending or regulation of such industries as oil, coal and natural gas development.
Utah depends on defense spending for a huge chunk of its economy, but energy development threatens its environmental quality. Companies in both those industries really want Bishop to keep his job, as shown by their donations to his re-election campaign.
Hatch’s donations tell a similar story. For the 2007-2012 election cycle he has, so far, a $12 million war chest, or $4 for every man, woman and child in Utah.
In just the last year, he has received more than 1,300 separate donations from political action committees. Another 3,420 individuals have poured money into his coffers as of July 1.
He has spent $10 million, much of that because of the nasty primary fight with Tea Party favorite Dan Liljenquist, who himself went through more than $800,000.
The sheer number of donations, not their cash value, explains why Hatch fought so hard this year to keep his job, despite his age.
Hatch has been in office 35 years. He has to be affected by all those donations. When thousands of major corporations, and more thousands of powerful individuals, all send you money, year after year, that’s a lot of incentive to keep doing that job the same way.
Could you, easily, give up that much power?
Hatch is not Cincinnatus, the Roman dictator who turned down ultimate power and went back to his farm. He likes where he is and wants to stay there.
That’s why he shamefully turned against so many of his own past beliefs, such as the DREAM Act, to fight off the Tea Party assault on his seat this year.
He had a lot of help. Looking at his donation information on the federal election site, www.fec.gov, as well as summaries on www.opensecrets.org, it is clear how well-connected, how far-reaching his shop in the U.S. Senate has become.
The top industries donating to him over the last five years are securities and investment ($728,571), pharmaceutical and health products ($689,401), and insurance ($365,344).
Securities and investment are Wall Street, the guys who gave us the housing crash of 2007, but certainly see no need for new regulation.
Pharmaceutical and insurance are the medical industry, which doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act that Hatch so ardently opposes. The goal of the ACA is to get more people covered by insurance, but the uninsured aren’t represented by groups that can make $300,000 in campaign donations.
If you’ve ever wondered why nothing ever changes in Washington D.C., or why your concerns seem to get short shrift, well, this is why.
There’s a lot of money from a lot of very big corporations and industries flowing to our lawmakers to make sure their needs get listened to and that any changes don’t hurt their bottom lines.
This means someone who wants a senator from Utah who doesn’t support oil development next to Arches National Park must either convince Hatch to change his mind or find a candidate who can overcome the overwhelming amount of donations flowing to the incumbent from coal, oil and gas interests that want him to keep his job.
I wish the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance luck. It will need it.