I decided to dip into the past a bit for some perspective on the level of political action committee and corporate contributions in this year’s elections.
So digging back into the past, I found a copy of my old Hawaii Monitor newsletter with a list of the top corporate and pac contributors to Hawaii state and local candidates between January 1, 1990 and the 1990 primary election.
Then, using the data reported to the Campaign Spending Commission, I identified the top contributors between January 1 and August 13, 2016 (that’s the latest report to date).
The surprise is that companies and pacs are actually giving far less directly to candidates than they did in 1990, at least in during election year.
Five of the top ten contributors in 1990 don’t exist today. And the ones that exist and still contribute to candidates give far less than they did then. At least two report giving 90% less to candidates than they did back in 1990. This seems to run counter to the public’s general perception.
I haven’t cleaned up the 2016 contributor list yet, so can’t confidently name the top current contributors.
However, IBEW Local Union 1186 PAC appears to be the top, or among the top contributors so far this year. But the pac’s total of $47,000 is 14% short of breaking into the 1990 Top 10, when compared in 2016 dollars.
Here are the numbers.
The top contributors in 1990 are listed below.
The first column shows their political contributions in 1990 dollars.
The second column shows those same contributions in today’s dollars, adjusted using the change in the consumer price index.
And the third column shows the contributions to candidates made in 2016 by the organizations that are still in existence and still participating in elections.
You can click to see a larger version of the table.
A few caveats. The contributions don’t cover the whole election cycle, only contributions made during the election year. And it doesn’t compare over corporate and pac election spending, which would include independent advertising and other kinds of expenditures. So it’s far from a complete picture.
But an interesting slice of the data, nonetheless.