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Staying Soft on Soft Money

Despite last week’s court decision upholding the use of multimillion-dollar soft-money donations, it’s not back to business as usual for K Street quite yet.

Corporations, unions and individuals plan to keep their checkbooks in their pockets until they get a clearer interpretation of last week’s 1,600-plus-page ruling by a U.S. District Court panel — or until the Supreme Court settles the matter. [IMGCAP(1)]

“We’re still digesting,” said a spokeswoman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which gave more soft money to the political parties than any other union or corporation in the 2001-02 election cycle.

Added a lobbyist for a large corporate soft-money giver: “Companies are going to move very slowly. There is no reason to hurry into this.”

That same go-slow approach is likely to apply to the nation’s most generous individual contributors. Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), for example, plans to hold off on writing any soft-money checks until he more fully understands the court decision.

Corzine, the chairman of the Democ-

ratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was the sixth-largest individual contributor of soft money in the previous cycle with more than $2 million in donations.

“Jon Corzine is waiting responsibly [and will] move accordingly once we have a clearer definition from our lawyers,” said DSCC spokesman Mike Siegel.

Meanwhile, corporate heads and union leaders said they expect that the political parties could be willing to solicit soft-money checks before they are ready to contribute.

“This is a risk-averse community,” said one corporate lobbyist. “Nobody wants to be the test case.”

Flying High. Despite unfriendly skies for U.S. airlines, political contributions from American Airlines continue to soar.

The Fort Worth-based carrier’s PAC made $6,000 in hard-dollar contributions in January as the industry predicted one of its worst years in history, $19,000 in February as the nation headed to war, and $43,500 in March as the airline veered toward bankruptcy.

Overall, the $68,500 donated by the nation’s leading airline in the first quarter of 2003 matched the total political contributions of its nearest seven competitors, according to

“American is acting like times are good,” said one longtime aviation lobbyist.

Last year, American Airlines was responsible for about a quarter of the industry’s hard-dollar contributions. Two of American’s competitors — UAL Corp.-owned United Airlines and USAirways — have not contributed any political contributions this year because they are bankrupt.

More Power for Arctic. Arctic Power has added some new lobbying muscle to help it pump legislation through Congress to permit oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

According to new lobbying disclosure forms, Arctic Power added the well-connected Democratic lobbying shop Griffin, Johnson, Dover & Stewart to its roster.

Arctic Power, an Alaskan-funded group founded to push the controversial ANWR issue, added Griffin, Johnson to replace Democratic-leaning Patton Boggs, which was let go late last year.

Roger Herrera, the head of Arctic Power, said Griffin, Johnson was hired to help move the ANWR legislation through the budget process — a task that failed by a few votes.

Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is the lead Senate supporter of the legislation, but his counterpart, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), is opposed to it.

Griffin, Johnson brings deep Democratic connections to the table, including one of Byrd’s former top staffers.

Despite the loss on the budget vote, Arctic Power still hopes to prevail this year.

“But don’t ask me exactly how we are going to do it because there is no roadmap,” said Herrera. “Where’s there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The Feds Add Suisse. The GOP-run Federalist Group has added Credit Suisse First Boston to its growing list of clients.

The lobbying shop will look out for the interests of Credit Suisse on banking and securities issues. The banking giant recently agreed to pay a $200 million fine for its role in a scandal involving botched investment advice, which also implicated Merrill Lynch and Citigroup.

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