Following the Chamber money trail, part 1

The data is in — as promised, we’ve compiled comprehensive political giving info for every US Chamber of Commerce board member using OpenSecrets campaign contribution data.

Current Chamber board members have given over $6 million in campaign contributions since 1992, an average of over $50,000 per director. Roughly 85% of these funds went to Republicans.*

The biggest political donor on the Chamber’s board is George Argyros, the billionaire former ambassador to Spain and much-maligned past owner of the Seattle Mariners. Argyros has given close to $1 million to politicians over the years, with about 99% of it going to Republicans.

Other major Republican donors on the board include Fredrick Palmer, Frank VanderSloot, Dan Kirby, William L Walton, and Red Cavaney.  

There are no equivalent Democratic fundraisers on the list. Of the twenty-two $100,000+ donors on the list, two have given more money to Democrats than Republicans over the years: Thomas Gottschalk and Paul Klaassen.

You might think, given these political sympathies, that Gottschalk and Klaassen are more likely to defect from the Chamber than their Republican peers. But both Klaassen and Gottschalk are tightly bound to the Chamber in other ways: Klaassen as chairman of Sunrise Senior Living, a company that is (strangely) tightly bound to the Chamber, and Gottschalk heads the Insititute for Legal Reform, a Chamber project working to fight off threats to federal preemption.

Roughly twenty other Chamber directors give to Democrats more often than Republicans.  Two of the more consistent Democratic donors appear to be David Steinberg, CEO of CAIVIS, and Theodore Mathas, CEO of New York Life.  But several among this bunch frequently toe the Chamber line, such as Harry Alford, who the New Republic called “The Conservative Al Sharpton.”

I’m going to follow up with more analysis of the Chamber’s political ties, but all this has led me to conclude that we need more data in order to really understand the contours of the organization’s networks — clusters, divisions, and so on.  Join the Chamber of Commerce group if you’re interested in lending a hand.

For your enjoyment, here is a table detailing contribution totals for each board member, with percentages given to Republicans and Democrats, respectively: 

And here is the full set of 3700+ filings from Chamber board members, 1992-2009.

* Contributions were coded as Republican or Democrat where possible — that is, where LittleSis had the politician coded as one or the other. This data is not complete (help improve it!).