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Oops: GOP Group Accidentally Reveals Corporate Donors

Getty Images/Drew Angerer

In the Upshot on Wednesday, Neil Irwin looked at a new, massive survey on American attitudes towards big business and tried to explain a contradiction in the numbers.

Forty eight percent of Americans think that corporations have too much power. That was around average compared to other countries, with Brazil on the high end at 63 percent and China the low at 24 percent. But if you phrased the question a little differently, you got a different response. When asked whether it’s good or bad for corporations to be influential, just 31 percent of Americans said it’s a good thing. Only Germany, Poland, Britain and Hong Kong had a lower percentage of people say that. In other words, Americans are relatively OK with Big Business’s current power, but they don’t want them to be influential. That seems slightly contradictory. But Irwin clears this up. “Americans aren’t antibusiness, in other words,” he writes. “They’re just against business having what they see as too much power in Washington.”

It’s not hard to see why Americans would be hostile to Big Business right now. Consider this: In the New York Times on Thursday, Jonathan Weisman wrote about the corporate donors for the 501(c)(4) arm of the Republican Governors Association (officially called the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee). 501(c)(4) organizations are groups that are designed to improve “social welfare.” More importantly, they don’t have to reveal the names of their donors or the donation amounts. That’s been a boon for political groups, but the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee screwed up and accidentally revealed its donor list. As Weisman reported, a number of big corporations—Aetna, Coca-Cola, Exxon Mobil, Koch Companies, Pfizer, Walmart and others—have donated more than $250,000 to the organization. In return, they’ve received invitations to “exclusive dinners” and special policy meetings. Some events have featured skiing and snowmobiling. At the 2012 conference in Las Vegas, guests “were also treated to an ‘under the Eiffel Tower’ event at the Paris Las Vegas hotel’s Chateau Nightclub.”

The Republican Governors Public Policy Committee may have accidentally revealed its donor list, but it certainly isn’t alone. The Democratic Governors Association has its own 501(c)(4) called the Center for Innovative Policy. It almost certainly offers the same perks and access to its corporate donors. It’s easy to imagine how that access can lead directly to beneficial policy decisions. No wonder Americans don’t want corporations to have too much power.

Danny Vinik

News from Thursday:

ERIC HOLDER: Attorney General Eric Holder, who has held that position since President Obama took office, announced Thursday that he was resigning. He will stay in his position until his replacement is confirmed. Nia-Malika Henderson explains Holder’s legacy embracing issues of racial injustice. (Washington Post)

CLIMATE: The Department of Homeland Security wants to help cities become more resilient to climate change (Lisa Anderson, Reuters)

OBAMACARE A new study from the Commonwealth Fund shows that the uninsured rate among Latinos has fallen dramatically, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. But it would have fallen even farther if Florida and Texas, two huge states with large Latino populations, had expanded Medicaid. The study also showed that Latinos were more likely to sign up when they had the help of in-person counselors, which suggests that government and non-profits should try to hire more of them.

IMMIGRATION: ACLU is suing to take down the only remaining section of Arizona's notorious SB 1070 immigration law still in effect. (Michael Kiefer,Arizona Republic)

Stories worth reading:

Quote of the day: Alec MacGillis finds a Barney Frank quote in the early edition of his Thursday Washington Post. It’s a quote that didn’t make it into the later edition of the Post or the online version of the article. You won’t want to miss it. (The New Republic)

Election strategy: Paul Waldman reminds us that the Republicans don’t actually need a positive agenda to win in November, although many conservatives are pushing the party to offer more ideas. (Plum Line)

Jeb Bush is a little rusty: Steve Benen and Ed Kilgore observe that Jeb Bush’s signature issues, education and immigration, are already causing him trouble with the Republican base. (MSNBC, Washington Monthly)

Ebola: Countries have promised aid to West Africa, but the supplies and help might not arrive soon enough to prevent the worst from happening. (Michele Kelemen, NPR)

Stories we’re watching:

More fallout from Eric Holder’s resignation.


Danny looks at the Justice Department’s record of punishing financial fraud under Eric Holder. It isn’t good. And check out Jessica Schulberg’s piece on four potential replacements for Holder.