Pearls of Wisdom: Do We Need More Corporate Political Spending?

Congress finally got the message from the American people. And the message they received is clear: major political donors should have more money and more influence on politics.

Currently, some of the largest political donors are Political Action Committees (PACs) representing trade associations. Groups of large companies often create trade associations, and many of those trade associations have associated PACs, who advocate for the member companies’ interests.

Two of the biggest spenders among these associations are realtors (real estate brokers) and beer distributors. Those are important industries, and since both industries are regulated, they have a lot of interest in the government (those two PACs each generally donate 3 or 4 million dollars per election cycle, divided up among candidates).

The current law includes some restrictions about PACs raising money from the employees of their members. Now, Congressional Republicans are trying to lift those restrictions, giving these PACs the ability to raise more money, and therefore exert even more political influence. They’re doing so by not actually changing the law (that might come off as politically unpopular), but by including in their budget a regulation that the government may not spend any money enforcing that law.

Perhaps, from the point of view of the Republican members of Congress, it makes sense to increase the political influence of these corporations and their trade associations. There are a lot of laws regulating mortgages, and when I think about mortgage regulation, I usually think about either people who want to buy houses, or maybe the lenders. But maybe Republicans in Congress believe that protecting real estate brokers and their profits should be the main focus of our regulatory system. I’m sure they believe that increasing their political power has nothing to do with the potential for millions of dollars in additional political donations.

Or look at beer distributors. The National Beer Wholesalers Association points out that many new beer producers have opened up over the last few years, and there are now over seven thousand beer companies, most of which have opened in the last few years. Fewer than five thousand actually produce beer, and of those, five (Anheuser-Busch Inbev; Miller Coors; Constellation/Crown; Heineken; and Pabst) account for around 84% of the money.

I have nothing against beer. Lots of people like to drink beer. However, I never even considered how much they must be struggling with not enough political donation money to get enough access to make their views known. I’ve been considering the industry from such a small-minded perspective when I think of alcohol regulations, thinking mostly of the problems with drunk drivers killing people, advertisements to minors, and consumer safety. But thankfully, members of Congress know much more than me, and realized that the real victim here is the beer industry. After these changes take effect, the people working in the beer industry will finally be able to make their voices heard (through millions in additional political contributions).

Yes, Congress got the message.

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