A new analysis shows that three dozen of North Carolina’s biggest political action committees (PACs) donated $7 million to state candidates and political parties in the last election – and now many of the groups are scrambling to make sure their interests, including tax breaks worth at least $1 billion a year, are not harmed in the new budget being hammered out in Raleigh.
The list of top PACs includes groups of developers, attorneys, university patrons, doctors, auto dealers, state employees, teachers, and beer wholesalers, as well as executives with blue-chip firms like Progress Energy, Wachovia, Blue Cross, AT&T, and Nationwide Insurance.
The analysis by the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina shows that legislative winners in 2008 received 94 percent of the $5.7 million the big PACs donated to all legislative candidates. The PACs also gave $770,000 to gubernatorial and other statewide candidates, as well as $590,000 to political party committees, much of which gets funneled into legislative races.
On September 16, 2008 the NC Realtors Association PAC sent 106 legislative candidates a total of $169,500 in donations. The same day, the NC Telephone Cooperative’s PAC sent $66,800 to 75 legislators. The next day, the Blue Cross PAC sent $42,200 to 45 candidates and two weeks later, Bank of America’s PAC gave 84 legislative candidates $118,250. And on and on it went.
But now the budget crisis is forcing elected leaders to make hard choices that affect big donors and pit one powerful lobby against another.
Teachers are holding rallies against cuts in the education budget, and the NC Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association is running full-page ads against proposals to increase the tax on its products. Both groups have PACs that gave more than $100,000 in direct contributions in 2008, plus at least another $100,000 through affiliated groups and individuals.