High Tech Ramps Up Its Election Contributions

Last Updated Oct 12, 2010 1:05 PM EDT

We're into another U.S. election cycle. With the Supreme Court decision that opened doors for unlimited corporate donations, it seems a good time to check where high tech was putting its influential bank accounts. And what becomes apparent is that the industry is redirecting a significant amount of money from the billions it makes into influence.

To put things into perspective, here are the high tech, media, and telecom companies that hit the top donors list in the time period from 1989 and 2010 (numbers in parentheses indicate rank among top donors) using data from OpenSecrets.org:

  • AT&T (T): $45.65 million (1)
  • Microsoft (MSFT): $21.04 million (27)
  • Time Warner (TWX): $20.03 million (30)
  • Verizon Communications (VZ): $19.32 million (33)
  • BellSouth Corp: $12.99 million (64)
  • Walt Disney Co (DIS): $11.61 million (70)
  • Comcast Corp (CCW): $11.19 million (76)
  • News Corp (NWS): $11 million (79)
  • Vivendi (VIV): $4.68 million (135)
Out of 135 companies names, the tech pool made up about 6.7 percent, and notice some of the names that don't appear: Apple (AAPL), Oracle (ORCL), HP (HPQ), IBM (IBM). I'm not even including Google (GOOG), which hasn't been around as long.

But the individual company view ignores the total amount that high tech provides. Here's a table showing just the computer and Internet sectors:

The numbers on this page are based on contributions of $200 or more from PACs and individuals to federal candidates and from PAC, soft money and individual donors to political parties, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. While election cycles are shown in charts as 1996, 1998, 2000 etc. they actually represent two-year periods. For example, the 2002 election cycle runs from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2002.

Pay attention to the rank, which shows where in a group of 80 industries this combined sector stands. Also remember that the 2010 numbers will take some time to come in. On the whole, giving leans toward Democrats.

Here's the table for telephone utilities, which have a slant toward Republicans:


And here's a table for TV/movies/music, which is as close to publishing and entertainment as I can find among the interest groups:


As you might expect, there's a significant tipping toward Democrats, with even more active donating than the computers and Internet sector. Take the three interest sectors together, and you've got $43,316,004 in play for politicians. That's a lot of money in one election cycle, and you can bet that the industry will want a substantial "ear" in return.

Related:

Image: RBGStock.com user woodsy, site standard license.
  • Erik Sherman On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.