Corporations paid senators a small bundle to Fast-Track the TPP bill
by Gaius Publius
While we're waiting for the Fast Track drama to deliver its next non-final event, I thought I'd offer some background. The big money behind the scenes is paying a lot to get this bill past the goal line (but as you'll see, not a whole lot).
The Guardian offers this report (my emphasis):
Here’s how much corporations paid US senators to fast-track the TPP bill
Keep in mind that this is just the Senate, and it only includes what's known. Still, some numbers:
A decade in the making, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is reaching its climax and as Congress hotly debates the biggest trade deal in a generation, its backers have turned on the cash spigot in the hopes of getting it passed.
“We’re very much in the endgame,” US trade representative Michael Froman told reporters over the weekend at a meeting of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on the resort island of Boracay. His comments came days after TPP passed another crucial vote in the Senate.
That vote, to give Barack Obama the authority to speed the bill through Congress, comes as the president’s own supporters, senior economists and a host of activists have lobbied against a pact they argue will favor big business but harm US jobs, fail to secure better conditions for workers overseas and undermine free speech online.
Those critics are unlikely to be silenced by an analysis of the sudden flood of money it took to push the pact over its latest hurdle.
The US Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – the fast-tracking bill – by a 65-33 margin on 14 May. Last Thursday, the Senate voted 62-38 to bring the debate on TPA to a close.
The best dollarocracy money can buy. Or the world's most expensive deliberative body. Or something.
Those impressive majorities follow months of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing by the world’s most well-heeled multinational corporations with just a handful of holdouts.
Using data from the Federal Election Commission, this chart shows all donations that corporate members of the US Business Coalition for TPP made to US Senate campaigns between January and March 2015, when fast-tracking the TPP was being debated in the Senate:
- Out of the total $1,148,971 given, an average of $17,676.48 was donated to each of the 65 “yea” votes.
- The average Republican member received $19,673.28 from corporate TPP supporters.
- The average Democrat received $9,689.23 from those same donors.
Here are some numbers for individual senators, especially those running for re-election:
The amounts given rise dramatically when looking at how much each senator running for re-election received.
Stunning. Blatant. Yet if you look at the dollars paid and compare that to the "take" each of these corporations — Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and others — would realize from not just TPP, but TTIP and TISA, the trade-in-services agreement, it's a pittance. Pennies on the dollar. Low by orders of magnitude.
Two days before the fast-track vote, Obama was a few votes shy of having the filibuster-proof majority he needed. Ron Wyden and seven other Senate Democrats announced they were on the fence on 12 May, distinguishing themselves from the Senate’s 54 Republicans and handful of Democrats as the votes to sway.
- In just 24 hours, Wyden and five of those Democratic holdouts – Michael Bennet of Colorado, Dianne Feinstein of California, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, and Bill Nelson of Florida – caved and voted for fast-track.
- Bennet, Murray, and Wyden – all running for re-election in 2016 – received $105,900 between the three of them. Bennet, who comes from the more purple state of Colorado, got $53,700 in corporate campaign donations between January and March 2015, according to Channing’s research.
- Almost 100% of the Republicans in the US Senate voted for fast-track – the only two non-votes on TPA were a Republican from Louisiana and a Republican from Alaska.
- Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who is the former US trade representative, has been one of the loudest proponents of the TPP. (In a comment to the Guardian Portman’s office said: “Senator Portman is not a vocal proponent of TPP - he has said it’s still being negotiated and if and when an agreement is reached he will review it carefully.”) He received $119,700 from 14 different corporations between January and March, most of which comes from donations from Goldman Sachs ($70,600), Pfizer ($15,700), and Procter & Gamble ($12,900). Portman is expected to run against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland in 2016 in one of the most politically competitive states in the country.
- Seven Republicans who voted “yea” to fast-track and are also running for re-election next year cleaned up between January and March. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia received $102,500 in corporate contributions. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, best known for proposing a Monsanto-written bill in 2013 that became known as the Monsanto Protection Act, received $77,900 – $13,500 of which came from Monsanto.
- Arizona senator and former presidential candidate John McCain received $51,700 in the first quarter of 2015. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina received $60,000 in corporate donations. Eighty-one-year-old senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who is running for his seventh Senate term, received $35,000. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who will be running for his first full six-year term in 2016, received $67,500 from pro-TPP corporations.
Our Senators Need an Agent
Let's say thirty massive corporations, including banks and pharmaceuticals, could expect, say, $1 billion in increased revenue over some number of years from these deals — a dollar number I think is off by a lot, by the way. At the top of this piece, the total in combined "donations" mentioned was just over $1 million.
Doing the math, our senators get just 0.1%, or one one-thousandth, of the take. That's nothing. Crumbs. Waiters get more. Agents get more. Our senators, bright as they are, can't negotiate. Perhaps they should ... well ... form a union so they could bargain from strength.
But at the very least, they need an agent. As a public service, I offer myself. I could immediately increase the slice they get by a factor of ten and still not cut into more than 1% of the predators' pie. Monsanto desperately needs Congress to rake in its monster haul. So does Eli Lilly. Come on, senators. They need you more than you need them.
It's time for pro-TPP senators to get what they really deserve. Don't you think?
(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here. TPP archive here.)