Tuesday :: Nov 27, 2007

Is Hillary Clinton a "Corporate Democrat?" - Part 4: The Special Interests of Obama and Clinton


by eriposte

In Parts 1, 2 and 3, I used voting records to show that portrayals of Sen. Hillary Clinton as a "Corporate Democrat" are extraordinarily misleading and that her actual voting record - although not perfect - is very progressive on matters pertaining to corporatist interests. I'd like to return to this topic today because one of Sen. Obama's main criticisms of Sen. Clinton's record has been on the topic of "special interests" (emphasis mine, throughout this post):

Second, the influence of lobbyists and special interests, who control too much of the agenda in Washington, must be reduced and the voices of the American people must be heard again. Barack Obama has a history of taking on the special interests and winning. He has a track record of leading the way on reform and disclosure. Barack Obama will be beholden to no one but the American people when he wins. Senator Clinton embraces the current system in Washington and is the anointed candidate of Washington, raising more money from PACs and Washington lobbyists than any candidate in either party...Opening up and reforming government has been a primary cause in Obama’s life, not just a convenient set of issues in a political campaign.

Given that and the latest kerfuffle on Sen. Obama's use of special interest/PAC funds, I thought it would be worth focusing some attention on PAC/lobbyist contributions to Sen. Obama's and Sen. Clinton's campaigns, as well as their voting records (Since Sen. Edwards has taken very little PAC contributions in comparison and I don't have his Progressive Punch voting scores, I am largely not including him in this assessment - however, I have discussed his voting record in Part 3). For clarity, I've divided this post into the following sections (the data in Sections 2-5 are reproduced as-is from Part 3 of this series and have not been updated since):

1. Federal PAC contributions: Obama v. Clinton

2. Progressive Punch Voting Record

3. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) Progressive Voting Scores

4. AFL-CIO Pro-Labor Voting Scores

5. SEIU Pro-Labor Voting Scores

6. Conclusions


1. Federal PAC contributions: Obama v. Clinton

The table below summarizes the career fundraising data for Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton from the wonderful Center for Responsive Politics (Note: the percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding and the $ values are as of 9/30/07; for reference, data for Sen. Edwards is here). I discuss the implications of the data towards the end of this section. One thing to keep in mind is that since Sen. Clinton has been in Congress more than twice as long as Sen. Obama, absolute $ numbers are not as important as the percentages.

TABLE 1.1 Federal campaign finance summaries for Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (source: Center for Responsive Politics)

Category

Sen. Clinton
$

Sen. Clinton
%
Sen. Obama
$
Sen. Obama
%
Source of funds
Individual contributions
151.7M
88%
94.5 M
97%
PAC contributions
3.7M
2%
1.3 M
1%
Candidate self-financing
0
0%
10.5 K
0%
Other*
17.4M
10%
1.3 M
1%
PAC contribution breakdown
Business
1.9 M
55%
674 K
55%
Labor
0.8 M
23%
287 K
23%
Ideological/Single-Issue
0.7 M
21%
271 K
22%
Quality of disclosure
Full disclosure
113.9 M
91.2%
68.5 M
88.2%
Incomplete disclosure
1.6 M
1.3%
0.98 M
1.3%
No disclosure
9.3 M
7.5%
8.2 M
10.6%

[*FOOTNOTE: The "Other" category is explained by CRP as follows - "OTHER: All other revenues collected by the campaign, such as interest from the campaign's bank accounts and loans from outside sources. This figure is calculated by subtracting PAC, individual and candidate money from total revenues received. Negative numbers generally indicate an accounting error by the campaign." I don't have the break-up of individual v. PAC sources for the funds in the "Other" category.]

Before I summarize the implications of the data above, let's also compare Sen. Obama's and Sen. Clinton's PAC contributions from each sector as a percentage of Total (=Individual+PAC) contributions they received from that sector, using the data from CRP (here and here). This information is captured in the table below.

TABLE 1.2 Federal campaign finance summaries on PAC receipts as a percentage of total receipts for Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (source: Center for Responsive Politics)

Sector
Sen. Clinton
(% PAC $/Total $)
Sen. Obama
(% PAC $/Total $)
Agribusiness
6.5 %
9.0 %
Communication/Electronics
2.5 %
1.4 %
Construction
2.8 %
1.9 %
Defense
27.8 %
19.6 %
Energy/Nat Resource
9.3 %
7.9 %
Finance/Ins/Real Estate
2.1 %
1.6 %
Health
5.1 %
3.2 %
Lawyers & Lobbyists
2.3 %
0.7 %
Transportation
7.3 %
10.5 %
Misc Business
1.6 %
0.7 %
Labor
85.2 %
90. 2 %
Ideological/Single-Issue
2.9 %
31.6 %
Other
0.2 %
0.1 %

OBSERVATIONS:

1.1 Sen. Clinton has raised much more in absolute $ from all sources than Sen. Obama has but this is not surprising considering she has been in the U.S. Senate much longer than Sen. Obama [Table 1.1].

1.2 The vast majority of contributions to Sen. Clinton's and Sen. Obama's campaigns are from individuals [Table 1.1]. Known PAC (incl. lobbyist) contributions constitute barely ~2% of Sen. Clinton's total receipts and barely ~1% of Sen. Obama's total receipts (Note: I don't have the break-up of the contributions that Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama transferred from "Other" sources). In my book, this difference is pretty minor, especially when I look at this in conjunction with their voting records (discussed below). As I noted in the introduction to this post, Sen. Edwards has negligible contributions from PACs.

1.3 With respect to their PAC contributions, the percentages of PAC contributions that Sen. Clinton received from business interests (55%), labor (23%) and ideological/single-issue groups (21%) are virtually identical to the percentages of PAC contributions that Sen. Obama received from those same interests (55%, 23%, 22%) [Table 1.1].

1.4 A review of the PAC funds that Senator Clinton and Sen. Obama received from each business sector - as a percentage of the total contributions they received from that sector - shows marginal differences between Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton in most cases. (The only significant difference is that Sen. Obama received a noticeably higher percentage of PAC funds (to Total funds) from Ideological or Single-Issue Group PACs than Sen. Clinton did) [Table 1.2].

1.5 In terms of quality of disclosure, both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have comparable levels of disclosure on the source of their funds, although Sen. Obama has a slightly higher non-disclosure rate (10.6% to Sen. Clinton's 7.5%) [Table 1.1], that is comparable to Sen. Edwards' non-disclosure rate (10.2%). I would not usually point this out, but I am doing so since Sen. Obama has been critical of Sen. Clinton's alleged non-disclosure on some campaign finance matters.

In the following sections, I will reproduce some of the data I published earlier (Part 3 of this series) on Sen. Obama's and Sen. Clinton's voting records - to provide a direct comparison in this post of their fundraising sources and extent of progressivism in voting patterns. The data below has NOT been updated since I published Part 3 of this series.


2. Progressive Punch Voting Record

Recall that Progressive Punch has a somewhat unique approach to scoring politicians. They only consider votes in which the majority of the most progressive Democrats in their list voted against the majority of the entire GOP caucus, and they rate each member of Congress on how well they vote together with the former against the latter. In other words, a very high Progressive Punch score means that the member of Congress mostly voted in sync with the most progressive Democrats against the GOP. A very low Progressive Punch score means the opposite - the member largely abandoned the most progressive members of the Democratic party to vote with the GOP. This is a great way to understand who is abandoning the most progressive members of Congress.

I have summarized the progressive scores for Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton below. The color coding is simple. In each row of the table, the higher score is colored green, the lower score is colored yellow. My comments on the results are captured below the table.

Table 2.1 Progressive Punch Progressive Score Comparison Table

Category/Issue
Overall Progressive Score
92%
90%
Aid to Less Advantaged People at Home and Abroad
98%
97%
Corporate Subsidies
100%
Not Av
Education, Humanities and the Arts
88%
100%
Environment
92%
100%
Fair Taxation
97%
100%
Family Planning
88%
80%
Government Checks on Corporate Power
95%
97%
Healthcare
98%
94%
Housing
100%
100%
Human Rights & Civil Liberties
82%
77%
Justice for All: Civil and Criminal
94%
91%
Labor Rights
91%
91%
Making Government Work for Everyone,
Not Just the Rich or Powerful
94%
90%
War and Peace
80%
86%

OBSERVATIONS:

2.1 Consistent with my observations (and caveats) in previous parts of this series, Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have very comparable and pretty progressive Progressive Punch voting scores. In fact, when we look at the overall Progressive Punch score for Sen. Clinton, it is apparent that on the whole, she voted more progressively and more in sync with the most progressive Democrats in the Senate (92%) than did Sen. Obama (90%). However, since there is likely to be some noise in the data, I will take a somewhat conservative approach in this assessment and say that she was at least as progressive overall in her voting patterns as Sen. Obama. Based on this data, it is fair to conclude that Sen. Clinton's and Sen. Obama's voting histories reflect a very high consistency of voting with a majority of the most progressive Senators in Congress across a multitude of issues - especially those concerning corporate interests. This does not, in any way, mean that they never voted badly - of course they have done so, but on the whole they have voted far more in sync with the most progressive members of Congress than otherwise.

2.2. As I showed in two other posts, Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are barely different in their Senate voting records on the topics of Iraq and Iran - hence it is not surprising to see that even on the topics of War and Peace and Human Rights/Civil Liberties, their Progressive Punch scores don't differ in any significant way.

P.S. Not that this matters, but this is a point that needs to be made. Sen. Obama had the luxury of not being in Congress during the crucial 2001-2003 time period. It is easier to oppose anti-progressive provisions of Bills in theory when you don't have to actually vote on very specific, constraining language in the Bills handed to you by a GOP majority that contain some progressive provisions along with anti-progressive provisions. When you combine that with Sen. Obama's tendency to reach out to Republicans ever so often, it is not unreasonable to assume that Sen. Obama's score (above) is likely more progressive than it might have been if he had actually been in the Senate starting in 2001 - however, I am giving him complete benefit of the doubt here and assuming that his progressive score is what is reflected in the table above.


3. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) Progressive Voting Scores

The list of ADA progressive scores for the time period 2001-2006 is provided in the table below. No discernible difference is evident between Sen. Clinton's scores and that of Sen. Obama. [Sen. Edwards' scores are in Part 3]

Table 3.1 ADA Progressive Score Comparison Table

Year
Sen. Clinton
Sen. Obama
95%
n/a
95%
n/a
95%
n/a
95%
n/a
100%
100%
95%
95%

4. AFL-CIO Pro-Labor Voting Scores

The list of AFL-CIO pro-labor voting scores for the time period 2001-2006 and lifetime scores are provided in the table below [Sen. Edwards' scores are in Part 3]. Scores below 90% are called out using yellow colored cells. Sen. Clinton shows a dip below 90% in her scores in 2003 and 2005. The dip in 2003 was due to her votes for the trade agreements with Singapore and Chile - something I mentioned in Part 2 of this series. The dip in 2005 was due to her votes for the Energy Appropriations Bill and the 2006 Budget with tax cuts included for high income earners (it should be noted for completeness that she has also voted in favor of amendments that would have reduced tax cuts and she voted against Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, among other things).

Sen. Clinton's lifetime score of 93% is very high and compares favorably with the impressive 96% lifetime score for Sen. Obama (based on 2 years of voting).

Table 4.1 AFL-CIO Pro-Labor Voting Score Comparison Table

Year
2001
100%
n/a
2002
92%
n/a
2003
85%
n/a
2004
100%
n/a
2005
86%
100%
2006
93%
93%
Lifetime
93%
96%

5. SEIU Pro-Labor Voting Scores

The list of SEIU pro-labor voting scores for the time period 2003-2007 are provided in the table below. Sen. Clinton's score is better than Sen. Obama's - but they both have comparable scores. Sen. Obama missed 2 votes this year. [Sen. Edwards' scores are in Part 3]

Table 4.2. SEIU Pro-Labor Voting Score Comparison Table (2007 includes votes to-date)

Year
Sen. Clinton
Sen. Obama
100%
n/a
100%
n/a
100%
92%
94%
94%
90%
70%*

*Missed 2 votes, voted wrong on 1 vote


CONCLUSIONS

In this post, I reviewed campaign finance data available from the fabulous Center for Responsive Politics' Open Secrets website on PAC/lobbyist contributions to Sen. Obama's and Sen. Clinton's federal campaigns. Additionally, I compared the voting records of Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton using Progressive Punch, Americans for Democratic Action, AFL-CIO and SEIU progressive voting scores. Here are the inferences I draw from this data:

A: Federal PAC/Lobbyist Contributions

A.1 The vast majority of contributions to Sen. Clinton's and Sen. Obama's campaigns are from individuals [Table 1.1]. Known PAC (incl. lobbyist) contributions constitute barely ~2% of Sen. Clinton's total receipts and barely ~1% of Sen. Obama's total receipts (Note: I don't have the break-up of the contributions that Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama transferred from "Other" sources). In my book, this difference is pretty minor, especially when I look at this in conjunction with their voting records (discussed below). As I noted in the introduction to this post, Sen. Edwards has negligible contributions from PACs.

A.2 With respect to their PAC contributions, the percentages of PAC contributions that Sen. Clinton received from business interests (55%), labor (23%) and ideological/single-issue groups (21%) are virtually identical to the percentages of PAC contributions that Sen. Obama received from those same interests (55%, 23%, 22%) [Table 1.1].

A.3 A review of the PAC funds that Senator Clinton and Sen. Obama received from each business sector - as a percentage of the total contributions they received from that sector - shows marginal differences between Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton in most cases. (The only significant difference is that Sen. Obama received a noticeably higher percentage of PAC funds (to Total funds) from Ideological or Single-Issue Group PACs than Sen. Clinton did) [Table 1.2].

A.4 In terms of quality of disclosure, both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have comparable levels of disclosure on the source of their funds, although Sen. Obama has a slightly higher non-disclosure rate (10.6% to Sen. Clinton's 7.5%) [Table 1.1], that is comparable to Sen. Edwards' non-disclosure rate (10.2%). I would not usually point this out, but I am doing so since Sen. Obama has been critical of Sen. Clinton's alleged non-disclosure on some campaign finance matters.

P.S. As an additional reference, it is worth noting this "Fact Check" post in the Washington Post on Sen. Obama's and Sen. Edwards' claims regarding their "purity" when it comes to PAC/lobbyist money.

B: Progressive Voting Scores

B.1 Consistent with my observations (and caveats) in previous parts of this series, Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have very comparable and pretty progressive Progressive Punch voting scores. In fact, when we look at the overall Progressive Punch score for Sen. Clinton, it is apparent that on the whole, she voted more progressively and more in sync with the most progressive Democrats in the Senate (92%) than did Sen. Obama (90%). However, since there is likely to be some noise in the data, I will take a somewhat conservative approach in this assessment and say that she was at least as progressive overall in her voting patterns as Sen. Obama. Based on this data, it is fair to conclude that Sen. Clinton's and Sen. Obama's voting histories reflect a very high consistency of voting with a majority of the most progressive Senators in Congress across a multitude of issues - especially those concerning corporate interests. This does not, in any way, mean that they never voted badly - of course they have done so, but on the whole they have voted far more in sync with the most progressive members of Congress than otherwise.

B.2 As I showed in two other posts, Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are barely different in their Senate voting records on the topics of Iraq and Iran - hence it is not surprising to see that even on the topics of War and Peace and Human Rights/Civil Liberties, their Progressive Punch scores don't differ in any significant way.

B.3 No discernible difference is evident between Sen. Clinton's ADA progressive scores and that of Sen. Obama - they are both equally high and impressive.

B.4 Sen. Clinton's lifetime AFL-CIO pro-labor voting score of 93% is very high and compares favorably with the impressive 96% lifetime score for Sen. Obama (based on 2 years of voting). (Sen. Clinton received scores below 90% on two occasions - one of which pertained to her vote for the trade agreements with Singapore and Chile)

B.5 Sen. Clinton's SEIU pro-labor voting scores are a bit better than Sen. Obama's - but they are mostly comparable and pretty high. (Sen. Obama missed 2 votes this year)

In conclusion, if Sen. Clinton's voting record is assumed to be that of a "Corporate Democrat", then surely, Sen. Obama's voting records are equally those of a "Corporate Democrat". In reality, of course, the voting patterns of Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are not consistent with those of a "Corporate Democrat". This conclusion is also consistent with the fact that PAC/lobbyist contributions form only a tiny percentage of the total contributions they have both received (Sec 1).

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