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Business groups dominate list of legislative donors

Business groups have given more money to California legislative campaigns over the last three years than private citizens and labor unions combined, according to a study released yesterday by Berkeley-based MAPLight.org.

Photo by Dani Simmonds

Beyond simply painting (as my colleague Lance Williams put it) a "David vs. Godzilla" portrait of campaign finance in California, the study provides some interesting details about the activism of corporate donors in the post-Citizens United campaign finance regime.

According to the study, business groups accounted for more than 47 cents out of ever dollar given to Republicans between January 2007 and March 2010. Labor unions – routinely lampooned as Democratic sugar daddies – gave about 21 cents out of ever dollar to Democrats during the same time period.

The analysis does not factor in statewide races or ballot initiatives, which are orders of magnitude more expensive than legislative races.

Since the Supreme Court ruled on Citizens United back in January, political observers have been arguing over which party will have the upper hand in an environment where both big business and unions can spend as much as they want to support or oppose a candidate.

Though the ruling will have little effect here – California has allowed unrestricted independent expenditures from corporations and unions for years – the study still may lend some weight to the argument that businesses, not unions, are the ones that more often flex their political muscle.

When they're not supporting the party in power, big business tends to side with the Republicans. Point GOP.

That's not to say corporate interests have stepped up to the plate. At least not yet. Earlier this week, the Washington Post pointed out that businesses have been struggling to figure out how to use their newfound campaign spending power without hurting their images.

But back to the study. MAPLight, a nonprofit group that studies the intersection of money and politics, pointed out that state Sen. (and lieutenant governor candidate) Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, raked in the largest share of his campaign cash from business interests: about 87 percent.

Here's how the rest of the Legislature stacks up:



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