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Gold-Plated Back Scratchers

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Center For America Progress's Eric Alterman and Mickey Ehrlich have written an interesting piece on recent legislation and the impact that campaign contributions from well-funded special interests have had on the final shape of critical bills.

One corporate-beholden member of the House of Representatives identified in the story is Minnesota's Collin Peterson. Alterman and Ehrlich show how Peterson, who claimed that he would use his chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee to "bring this climate bill down" unless he secured concessions for agricultural interests, leans heavily on those he protects. The CAP researchers wrote:

The House Energy and Commerce Committee also produced the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation that passed in late June. That bill passed in the House with a seven-vote margin only after the inclusion of an amendment that largely exempted the agricultural industry from the carbon emissions standards set by the bill. The top three donors to the 2008 campaign of the amendment's sponsor, Collin Peterson (D-MN), were the American Farm Bureau, American Crystal Sugar, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Overall, the industries of crop production, agricultural services/products, dairy, and food processing donated $623,123 to Peterson’s campaign and PAC for the 2008 election. That amounts to 41 percent of all the funds Peterson’s campaign and PAC raised for his most recent election.

Big donors influencing legislation is hardly a new notion. It takes constant vigilance from groups like CAP  to hold politicians accountable for larding up bills on behalf of their corporate pals.


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