Both parties in the U.S. Senate voted today to preserve the status quo in leadership, keeping Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell at the helm. As the Center for Public Integrity reported in a June series Who Bankrolls Congress?, the men who will set their parties’ agendas have ties to powerful business interests, including tobacco, telecommunications, and banking.
The Senate Democratic Caucus unanimously re-elected Reid of Nevada as majority leader for the 112th Congress, which begins in January. The Senate Republican Conference kept McConnell of Kentucky as minority leader. Both men have held those positions since the beginning of 2007.
Telecom giant AT&T was the single top backer of both men, dating back to the early 1980s — a bipartisan investment that has paid significant dividends. Both Reid and McConnell have backed the firm’s priorities on telecommunications legislation and played key roles in granting the company immunity for its participation in the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.
The American Bankers Association, the group representing the $13 trillion banking industry, also placed on the Top 10 lists for Reid and McConnell. Both senators backed the 2008 law creating a $700 billion bailout program for the financial sector.
And both men have received hefty sums from tobacco behemoth Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, Skoal smokeless tobacco, and Black & Mild cigars. Altria backed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009, which Reid co-sponsored in the Senate. The bill, which gave the FDA the power to regulate tobacco products, was opposed by other tobacco companies who claimed Altria supported it in a move to lock up market share. Though McConnell broke with Altria in support of other tobacco companies to oppose that legislation, he has generally been a strong ally for the company and its tobacco industry competitors.
In all, Reid received more than $14 million from PAC committees over his nearly 30-year Congressional career and McConnell took in more than $12.5 million since in more than 25 years.