Tuesday, August 22, 2006

British business inside the Beltway

It’s not just British politicians that are bought and paid for by British companies. It seems that BAE is the 18th largest political donor in the US, giving more to the two major US parties than either Microsoft or ExxonMobil:

‘US subsidiaries of British companies have doled out about $3.7m in political contributions ahead of November's congressional election, with 68 per cent of the donations supporting Republican candidates, according to an analysis by the FT of figures compiled by Political Moneyline, a website that tracks political contributions.

‘Although GlaxoSmith-Kline, the UK drugmaker, technically ranks as the single biggest corporate donor to US candidates of all US subsidiaries of UK companies, the combined spending of two separate BAE political action committees - or pacs - outranks the drug company.

‘BAE, which disbursed about $439,499 to individual Republican candidates - compared with $232,500 to Democrats - also outspent some of the largest US companies, including ExxonMobil, the oil giant, Microsoft, the software maker, and Citigroup.

‘The three biggest beneficiaries of BAE's two political committees so far reflect the company's US ambitions and its place as one of the top 10 military contractors in the country.

‘The three candidates that have each received $20,000 from BAE's committees are Jerry Lewis, a California Republican who chairs the House appropriations committee; John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam war veteran who is a leading critic of the war in Iraq, also serves on the appropriations committee and is the top-ranking Democrat on the defence subcommittee; and Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House armed services committee, who is one of staunchest supporters of protectionist legislation on Capitol Hill.

‘Glaxo has contributed a total of $531,213 in the campaign season so far - $376,627 of which was disbursed to Republican candidates - followed by the banking group HSBC, Rolls-Royce, the engine manufacturer, and oil group BP.’

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Political funding arrangements on both sides of the Atlantic are institutionally corrupt, in the same sense that the Metropolitan Police is institutionally racist.

‘What’s good for business’ isn’t necessarily what is good for the environment, or what is good for tens of millions of ordinary working people and their families. Yet at present, the business lobby effectively operates a monopoly in politics. As any good free marketeer should be able to tell you, that cannot be healthy for democracy.

What is needed is a healthy injection of competition from a mass party, funded by small donations from millions of ordinary members. You could call it … oh I dunno, a ‘Labour Party’ or something, perhaps.

Comments from US readers on the political track records of the beneficiaries of BAE largesse are more than welcome.


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