Examining the Records of the Bankruptcy Senators
In trying to understand the eighteen Democratic Senator votes for the bankruptcy bill, I decided to examine their Senate web pages to see if they explained the reason for their vote. Most did not. The next step was to look at what they got in campaign contributions from the Credit Card industry for the past three election cycles using the great site provide by the Center for Responsive Politics. I decided a report of what I found would be of interest. To create this report, I examined the records and websites for the 18 Democratic Senators that voted for this bill and then included information about several of the other Senators that were either courted heavily by this industry, or had voted for the bill in another year, or enabled the passage of the bill by voting it out of committee or by voting to end cloture.
The information for the top ten senators who received sizable contributions from the Credit Card industry and who voted for the bill is shown in the table below. For the complete report, see here.
|Senator||Year Elected||Credit Card Contribs||Total CC Contribs in Six Years||Press Release|
|Tom Carper D-DE||2000||$110,945||$209,552||no|
|Joe Biden D-DE||2002||$109,450||$173,625||no|
|Tim Johnson D-SD||2002||$114,450||$112,400||Statement Supporting Bill|
|Evan Bayh D-IN||2004||$79,000||$77,700||Amendment Supporting Exception for Military Families|
|Harry Reid D-NV||2004||$48,500||$63,568||Back's Schumer's amendment|
|Mary Landrieu D-LA||2002||$54,475||$63,475||Back's amendment exempting military families|
|Max Bacus D-MT||2002||$33,500||$34,500||no|
|Debbie Stabenow D-MI||2002||$20,100||$33,600||no|
|Ben Nelson D-NE||2000||$9,250||$30,450||no|
|Blanche Lincoln D-AR||2004||$25,250||$28,775||no|
When you look at the full report I assembled, there are some interesting anomolies. The first anomoly is that Herb Kohl (D-WI) is a very strong backer of the bill, yet he took no money from this industry, takes no money from PACs and largely self-financed his last election. Here is what he said about the bill:
Bankruptcy is a serious decision that people have to make. I support the bill because it simply requires that people who can repay some of their debts do so. The bill will not affect the vast majority of people -- 80 percent or more -- who will still use bankruptcy the same way that they do now. The bill targets only the people who are taking advantage of the bankruptcy system, those who can and should repay some of their debts to their local retailer or credit union.
The only other Senator that voted for this bill that seems to have zero contributions from this industry was Daniel Inouye (D-HI). He didn't provide any information about why he felt this bill was crucial to vote for.
Three other Senators received peanuts (less than $10,000 over 6 years) and voted for this bill without giving a clear indication about why they voted for it. Those Senators were Robert Byrd (D-WV), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Mark Pryor (D-AR). Pryor provided a press release bragging that he had voted for the minimum wage increase amendment which was attached to the bill, but was voted down. So, why did he vote for this bill? (BTW: Leiberman also noted his vote for the minimum wage, but he didn't carry it forward to a vote for the bill.)
One thing that was evident examining the record was the Credit Card industry had been sprinkling their bribes broadly, even giving a little over a $1,000 to Paul Wellstone in 2002, in order to get a bill passed after working on it for eight years. Putting the long-running campaign in perspective, one must understand the investment (what is paid in campaign contributions) to payback (what is finally realized in profits or saved taxes) to see how effective this type of multi-year campaign can be. The credit card companies will reap billions for their millions they invested in buying this result.
Update: Reworked display of table, it was not displaying correctly in IE.