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When registered lobbyists dig into their wallets, incumbent senators almost always benefit.

More than 1,000 federally registered lobbyists have personally donated $2.76 million to the campaigns of U.S. senators seeking re-election this year, according to a Center for Public Integrity study of contributions from 1999 through September 2004. That represented 95 percent of lobbyist contributions in those 26 races; only 5 percent, $157,000, went to challengers.

This trend of registered lobbyists financially supporting incumbents is clear in states like Connecticut and Nevada, where Democratic incumbents Christopher Dodd and Harry Reid, respectively, each received around $190,000 from lobbyists, while their Republican challengers received no lobbyist contributions whatsoever. In fact, in more than half of this year’s 34 senatorial races, lobbyists gave nothing to challengers while giving an average of $95,000 to the incumbents in those states.

Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota, received $260,000 from lobbyists, the most of any senator seeking re-election this year. Daschle was followed by Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) with $225,000; Dodd with $190,000; Reid with $188,000; and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) with $151,000.

One reason that these donations concern campaign finance experts is that they create the potential for apparent conflicts of interest. In fact, the Center found that lobbyists sometimes made personal contributions to the very lawmakers they sought to influence.

For instance, Senator Specter received $24,500 from lobbyists working for Blank Rome LLP. One of Blank Rome’s largest clients is FastShip Inc., which transports containers between the U.S. and Europe. In 2003, Blank Rome billed the company $160,000. At a press conference with FastShip executives earlier this year, Specter took credit for bills appropriating $40 million in federal funds to construct the company’s state-of-the-art marine cargo terminal at the Port of Philadelphia.

Similarly, Senator Daschle’s campaign received more money—$13,650—from lobbyists associated with Patton Boggs than from lobbyists at any other firm. Patton Boggs’ second largest client during the last six years was the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, which over that period paid the high-powered lobbying firm $5.8 million. One of ATLA’s top priorities was to ward off limits on awards in medical malpractice suits. In July 2003, Daschle spearheaded a successful effort to block such proposed limits.

The Center also found that lobbyists favored Democratic senatorial candidates by a two-to-one ratio, with about 850 of the nearly 25,000 registered lobbyists donating $2.3 million of their own money to Democrats and almost 600 of them contributing $1.2 million to Republicans. Of the 26 Senate incumbents running for re-election this year, 14 are Democrats and 12 are Republicans.

Lobbyists donated a total of $3.5 million to candidates in the 2004 senatorial elections, an average of $2,800 per contributor. Since 1999 these lobbyists—along with their colleagues—billed more than $3.3 billion, which accounts for more than 30 percent of all the reported federal lobbying during that time.

A similar study by the Center in May 2004 found that more than 1,300 registered lobbyists donated $1.8 million to President George W. Bush over the last six years, while 442 lobbyists contributed $520,000 to Senator John Kerry.

Lobbyists’ Money




Lobbyists’ Money


Tony Knowles


Senator Lisa Murkowski



Senator Richard Shelby


Wayne Sowell



Senator Blanche Lincoln


Jim Holt



Stuart Marc Starky


Senator John McCain



Senator Barbara Boxer


Bill Jones



Ken Salazar


Peter Coors



Senator Christopher Dodd


Jack Orchulli



Betty Castor


Mel Martinez



Representative Denise L. Majette


Representative John Isakson



Senator Daniel Inouye


Cam Cavasso



Arthur A. Small


Senator Charles Grassley





Senator Michael Crapo



Barack Obama


Alan Keyes



Senator Evan Bayh


Marvin Bailey Scott



George H. Cook


Senator Samuel Brownback



Frank Daniel Mongiardo


Senator Jim Bunning



Chris John


David Vitter



Senator Barbara Mikulski


E. J. Pipkin



Nancy Farmer


Senator Christopher Bond



Erskine B. Bowles


Representative Richard Burr



Senator Byron L. Dorgan


Mike G. Liffrig



Dorris R. Haddock


Senator Judd Gregg



Senator Harry Reid


Richard Ziser



Senator Charles E. Schumer


Howard D. Mills



Representative Eric D. Fingerhut


Senator George V. Voinovich



Brad R. Carson


Thomas A. Coburn



Senator Ronald Wyden


Al King



Joseph M. Hoeffel


Senator Arlen Specter



Inez Moore Tenenbaum


James W. Demint



Senator Thomas Daschle


John Thune



R. Paul Van Dam


Senator Robert Bennett



Senator Patrick Leahy


Jack McMullen



Senator Patty Murray


George R. Nethercutt



Senator Russell Feingold


Tim Michels


There are other candidates for the Senate in Louisiana, however Chris John and David Vitter are the only candidates that received lobbyists’ contributions.

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