Washington -- The cable industry led the way among the $1.5
billion in special-interest donations to political candidates last year, with Time Warner
Inc's $1.4 million total topping the category, according to a study released Tuesday
by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The 1998 cable-industry donations -- which included
$768,060 from the former Tele-Communications Inc. and $752,518 from the National Cable
Television Association -- were included in a communications and electronics category that
raised nearly $55 million, the seventh largest amount raised by an industry.
The money, compiled in the new CRP report The Big
Picture, documents all funds received from individuals and political actions
committees, as well as soft money, which refers to the large and unregulated sums given
directly to a political party.
Communications and electronics industry donations were
split evenly between the two major parties, with $26.8 million going to Democrats and
$27.2 million to Republicans. But TCI and the NCTA, which deal exclusively with cable,
gave more to Republicans than Democrats.
A spokesperson for the center said the cable industry was
an increasingly important contender in Washington politics.
"They're huge players, largely because
there's increased consolidation in the industry," said CRP spokesperson Holly
Bailey. "With all the recent mergers, there's certainly a centralization of
power within companies like AT&T [Corp., which bought TCI] and Time Warner."
A National Cable Television Association spokesman said the
trade association had no comment on campaign donations.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose campaign finance reform
bill on Oct. 19 failed to receive the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster by Kentucky
Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, said special-interest groups have too much power in the
"If you look at many pieces of legislation,
you'll see that the special interests rule and the public interests are no longer
considered," McCain said Monday. "But more importantly, young Americans, by
polling data, have become disaffected, cynical and even alienated from the process.
That's the most disturbing aspect of this situation."
McCain, chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee,
received the highest amount in contributions from the communications and electronics
industry, with $556,694. Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), placed second,
receiving almost $500,000.
Other telecommunications sectors favored individual
Republican candidates, but gave more to the Democrats in direct party donations.
States News Service