Washington -- The cable industry led the way among the $1.5billion in special-interest donations to political candidates last year, with Time WarnerInc's $1.4 million total topping the category, according to a study released Tuesdayby 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 CableTelevision Association -- were included in a communications and electronics category thatraised nearly $55 million, the seventh largest amount raised by an industry.
The money, compiled in the new CRP report The BigPicture, documents all funds received from individuals and political actionscommittees, as well as soft money, which refers to the large and unregulated sums givendirectly to a political party.
Communications and electronics industry donations weresplit 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 wasan increasingly important contender in Washington politics.
"They're huge players, largely becausethere's increased consolidation in the industry," said CRP spokesperson HollyBailey. "With all the recent mergers, there's certainly a centralization ofpower within companies like AT&T [Corp., which bought TCI] and Time Warner."
A National Cable Television Association spokesman said thetrade association had no comment on campaign donations.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose campaign finance reformbill on Oct. 19 failed to receive the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster by KentuckyRepublican Sen. Mitch McConnell, said special-interest groups have too much power in thepolitical process.
"If you look at many pieces of legislation,you'll see that the special interests rule and the public interests are no longerconsidered," McCain said Monday. "But more importantly, young Americans, bypolling 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 electronicsindustry, with $556,694. Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), placed second,receiving almost $500,000.
Other telecommunications sectors favored individualRepublican candidates, but gave more to the Democrats in direct party donations.
States News Service