Show Me the Money: How Companies Funded the Primary

By the time Missouri wakes up Wednesday morning, the political winners will be known. Less apparent are the corporate titans that helped them win the race.

Candidates must file disclosure forms with the Missouri Ethics Commission outlining who their contributors are, but a look at the top companies trying to exert financial influence on Missouri’s candidates can be just as telling or more. The Missouri Business Alert staff broke down numbers from Follow the Money, Project Vote Smart and Open Secrets to determine which companies have the largest stake in Missouri’s campaigns heading into the primary, as well as which candidates got the most money. The numbers also show who is likely to get more cash before the general election, not to mention who will have the winner’s ear.

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Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

When looking at campaign donations in Missouri from the corporate perspective some patterns and tendencies emerge. First, big-money Missouri companies like to back incumbents; more than 90% of their donated money went to people already holding public office in the state. Given that incumbents are almost always strong favorites to hold onto their seats—the Senate and House each saw more than 80% of incumbents re-elected in 2010, and that percentage is below average historically—the goal would seem to be backing the winner regardless of party. After all, a candidate doesn’t have influence on policy or regulations regarding businesses until after he or she gains office. No Missouri candidates received more money this campaign cycle than Democrats Claire McCaskill and Jay Nixon, the incumbent Senator and governor, with more than $13.5 million and $7.5 million dollars in the coffers, respectively.

Major donors also frequently made a choice to either donate to in-state campaign seats or to the top level of the state’s political totem—the Senate and House races. Companies such as Ameren, A-B Inbev, Cerner and BNSF spent six figures on races within state borders such as governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, while auto rental company The Crawford Group poured all its funding into federal Senate and House races. Express Scripts, meanwhile, contributed near equal amounts at both levels, totaling more than a quarter of a million dollars.

One of the biggest contributors to Missouri’s Senate and House races this year, Boeing, has donated more than three million dollars in all in the last decade-plus while also being one of the biggest recipients of federal tax incentives and government contracts.

Where else does the money trail of Missouri campaign contributions lead? Take a closer look:

Among the state’s top 20 corporate campaign contributors, the list is topped by a total surprise. Herzog Contracting, a Kansas City-based company specializing in rail and highway construction, is Missouri’s runaway money leader, besting Express Scripts by more than $100,000. The rest of the list, aside from appearances by The Crawford Group (#5) and the Husch Blackwell law firm (#8) is comprised of familiar names among Missouri businesses.

Looking at the top donating companies in the state and which candidates they focus the most dollars on, only three names repeat. Governor Jay Nixon and Senator Claire McCaskill each appear a total of three times on various top-three lists for corporate donors, while Republican Lieutenant Governor incumbent Peter Kinder appears twice.

Signs of partisanship? When looked at from the perspective of party affiliation, some of the top corporations in the state contribute significantly higher to one side or the other (ahem, Herzog Contracting). One possible reason, however, could tie back to percentage of incumbents supported. Whichever party is in office at the moment will be the one most likely to receive campaign contributions.

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