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The long, strange trips of corporate donations


The Center for Political Accountability thinks publicly owned corporations should tell their stockholders where their political contributions are going. That seems only fair. And when companies respond by complaining that it would take unreasonable amounts of time and money to whip up such a report, that seems sort of . . . not true.

But a glance into the world of political donations suggests that a straightforward list of a corporation’s activity would be like a snapshot of the Atlantic Ocean. Many important details would remain hidden deep beneath the surface.

It’s not easy, tracking the journey of a donated dollar to its final pocket.

Visit www.politicalmoneyline.com, and you enter a world where money flows like a river and no payment is ever final. If the Web site is accurate, the process included these examples from the 2003-04 political campaign cycle. (We’ll use individuals, just for fun; but the effect is the same if you start with corporations.)

Don Lamberti, retired chairman of Casey’s General Stores Inc., gave – among many other contributions; the guy definitely is not stingy — $5,000 to the NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) Political Action Committee. The NACS PAC in turn gave money to 31 other PACs. One of them (chosen at random) was The Freedom Project. Then The Freedom Project gave money to the Apollo Group Inc. Political Organization for Legislative Leadership. Which gave to the Solidarity PAC. Which gave to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which chipped in to the campaigns of Iowa Congressional candidates Leonard Boswell ($1,417) and Bill Gluba ($3,000).

Democrats Boswell and Gluba would seem to be unlikely targets for any dollar that emerges from Lamberti’s wallet. He donated approximately $32,000 to the Republican Party and various Republican candidates.

In most cases, your money probably stays on the intended side of the political aisle, but it still might tour the nation.

Marvin Pomerantz, chairman of Mid-America Group Ltd., gave $5,000 to the Republican Jewish Coalition PAC, which gave to the Keep Our Majority PAC of Alexandria, Va., which gave to the Advanced Medical Technology Association PAC of Washington, D.C., which gave to the Volunteer PAC of Nashville, which gave $1,000 to the Hillenbrand Industries PAC, based in Indiana and parent company to the Batesville Casket company.

Bill Oddy, chief executive officer of FBL Financial Group Inc., gave $3,700 to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America PAC, starting a chain of donations that led, in one of its many channels, to the Team Texas Committee, devoted to the cause of Becky Armendariz Klein, a Republican candidate for Congress who lost — just as expected.

According to a New York Times article, telecommunications and energy companies absolutely rained cash into Klein’s purse not because they wanted to send her to Congress, but because they’re hoping she will be appointed to lead the Federal Communications Commission.

Oh, to be a donated dollar bill. Well-loved, well-traveled and making all kinds of unpredictable differences in this, the greatest and most intentionally complicated nation on Earth.

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