Bush Business Donors Shunning McCain for Democratic Candidates
By Jonathan D. Salant
May 9, 2008

May 9 (Bloomberg) -- Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, is struggling to attract money from some of the same industries that helped bankroll President George W. Bush's record-setting fundraising.

Employees from the securities, construction, pharmaceutical and energy industries, who accounted for about a tenth of Bush's money in 2004, are turned off by his record and giving more to his Democratic rivals, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

"A significant percentage of your base Republican support, whether financial or otherwise, are not fans of McCain because of various things he's done or said or sponsored," said Republican consultant Eddie Mahe, who is supporting the Arizona senator. "Many of them don't see Mr. McCain as being a lot better" than the Democrats.

Obama and Clinton each raised close to $11 million from the four industries through the end of March, compared with $6 million for McCain. In 2004, Bush raised three times more money from those sources than Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee that year.

The political action committee of the American Road and Transportation Builders, the Washington-based trade group for such companies as Caterpillar Inc., contributed the maximum $5,000 to Bush's presidential campaign in both 2000 and 2004. McCain has gotten nothing.

McCain on Roads

"Our PAC supports members of Congress who are supportive of increased transportation investment," ARTBA spokesman Matthew Jeanneret said. "I don't think he fits that definition."

McCain, 71, who voted against the 2005 legislation allocating $286.5 million for highways and transit, proposed suspending the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax for the summer, eliminating the main source of revenue for federally funded road projects. Clinton also supports a gas-tax holiday.

John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, called McCain's proposal "short-sighted and damaging to our nation's economy."

Pharmaceutical industry employees and PACs contributed $516,839 to Bush in 2004, compared with $280,688 for Kerry, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. This time around, they gave $339,729 to Obama, $262,870 to Clinton and only $74,850 to McCain through March.

No `Friend'

"McCain has not characterized himself as a friend of the industry," said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health LLC, a Washington research company.

During a Jan. 5 debate in New Hampshire, McCain criticized the drug companies for high prices charged to the government's Medicare and Medicaid programs and said he backed importing cheaper drugs from Canada, a position also held by his Democratic opponents.

"How could pharmaceutical companies be able to cover up the cost to the point where nobody knows? Why shouldn't we be able to re-import drugs from Canada?" McCain asked.

One of his opponents, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, interjected, telling McCain not to paint drug companies as "big bad guys."

"Well, they are," McCain responded.

McCain suggested in an interview that some industries are shunning his campaign because of his opposition to earmarks -- local projects inserted into spending measures by lawmakers.

`Cottage Industry'

"Many of them made a cottage industry out of pork-barrel and earmark projects that would come to a halt," McCain said. "So I fully understand why certain special interests that I've opposed over the years wouldn't contribute to my campaign."

Energy companies are focused on bigger issues than earmarks. For the 2004 election, energy employees gave $4.9 million to Bush and $757,502 to Kerry. So far this year, they have given about the same amount -- $1 million -- to the three candidates.

Like the Democratic candidates, McCain backs legislation to curb greenhouse gases that is opposed by many energy companies.

"If they had to pick a candidate, I think they'd like a fourth one," said former Democratic Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, who runs a lobbying group with former Senate colleague Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican.

Breaux is registered to lobby for several energy companies, including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe's largest oil company.

Bankers and Brokers

One cash cow for Bush's campaign has become a large source of funds for the Democrats. Employees working in the securities and investment industry contributed $9.2 million to Bush's 2004 campaign, almost twice Kerry's $4.8 million. This time, Obama's $7.5 million and Clinton's $7 million from the industry are almost double the $3.8 million that McCain has brought in through March, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"People have a feeling that it's time for change," said UBS Americas Chairman Robert Wolf, who has raised more than $200,000 for Obama and one of whose predecessors, Joseph Grano, was a top Bush fundraiser.

Bankers and investors don't point to specific policies affecting their industry in explaining McCain's lack of support. Grano, a McCain backer, said disappointment over what he calls the "terrible" execution of the Iraq war may account for some of McCain's difficulties. Bush's job performance is another oft- mentioned reason.

"There's a great deal of dissatisfaction with the Republican Party," said Mallory Factor, a merchant banker who co-hosts a weekly meeting of conservatives in New York City and raised more than $1 million for Bush and his party four years ago. "People are just fed up."

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: May 9, 2008 00:01 EDT

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