Labor, Business Leaders Meeting With Obama Are Also Big Campaign Spenders

President Obama turns outside Congress to build support for deficit deal.

Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical is headed to the White House, along with other labor and business leaders.
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As President Barack Obama opens the White House doors to labor and business leaders to rally support for a deficit reduction deal, it's important to remember it's only after they opened their wallets to politicians of all stripes during the 2012 election cycle.

The biggest money came from labor unions, including the SEIU, AFSCME, and the AFL-CIO, and nearly all of it donated to Democrats up and down the ticket. According to the most recently available campaign finance reports compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, labor and other progressive groups that met with Obama on Tuesday donated more than $80 million in the 2012 cycle to candidates. About 94 percent of that went to Democrats.

Chart reflects 2012 donations of organizations represented by 11 visitors.

Business leaders, from companies representing a variety of industries, such as Aetna, American Express, Wal-Mart, and Xerox, are scheduled to meet with Obama on Wednesday. They, and their employees, have also made their mark by fundraising for politicians, contributing about $18.7 million to this election cycle, according to CRP totals. On average, about 60 percent of their donations went to support Republicans versus about 40 percent to Democrats. Honeywell, General Electric, and Wal-Mart were the largest spenders, according to filings.

Chart reflects 2012 donations of organizations represented by 12 visitors.

Some of the individuals headed to the White House are big donors too, although they primarily gave to Republicans. Andrew Liveris, Dow's president, chairman and CEO, gave more than $100,000 to Republicans and $35,000 to Democrats, and Chevron Chairman and CEO John Watson gave about $75,000 to Republicans. Conversely, Bob Greenstein, founder and executive director of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, gave $3,000 to support Democrats.

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These totals reflect known contributions, not total giving, as companies, labor groups, or individuals could also donate unlimited amounts anonymously to nonprofits that spend on elections as well.

Obama will also meet Friday with bipartisan congressional leadership. The president and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, failed to reach an agreement during similar talks last year, but lawmakers are renewing efforts to make a deal in the face of a looming 'fiscal cliff' that includes automatic tax increases for all Americans, as well as drastic, across the board spending cuts. Labor and progressive groups have been lobbying against cuts to domestic spending programs. Business leaders, in the past dead-set against any closing of certain tax loopholes or raising of tax rates on the wealthy, are signaling they are willing to show flexibility in exchange for a deficit deal that includes reforming entitlement spending on programs such as Medicare.

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"No one can dispute that our nation's entitlement programs are unsustainable and it is mathematically impossible to fix our spending problem without serious entitlement reform," said Bruce Josten, vice president for government affairs with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The group sent a "multi-industry coalition letter" to Obama and Congress on Wednesday pressing for action.

"We urge the president and Congress to work together to address the fiscal cliff and achieve a 'Big Deal,'" he said, adding that such an agreement would put the country "back on a path to growth and fiscal balance."

Obama hopes that by rallying outside support for a mixture of targeted tax increases on the wealthy and specific cuts, he can help pressure Congress to act where it has balked before.

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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter.