The Donalds Dossier: Packing in the PAC cash for the midterms

Rep. Byron Donalds at CPAC on Feb. 25 of this year in Orlando. (Image: YouTube)

Sept. 13, 2022 by David Silverberg

“Folks, I like money,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) told a cheering crowd at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) convention in Orlando on Feb. 25 of this year. “Can we be honest about this? I like money!”

Indeed, he does. And Donalds is very good at raising it. This year he entered his general election campaign with $4.8 million (or exactly $4,805,548.69) in receipts, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Donalds’ public fundraising appeals are insistent and incessant, stoking and exploiting fear and anxiety of Democrats, socialism, Dr. Anthony Fauci and all the ghosts, goblins and specters that keep extreme MAGA maniacs awake at night.

There’s no denying it—it works.

As of Aug. 8, $4 million ($4,036,842.37 to be exact) of Donalds’ contributions came from individuals and the efforts of Winred, a professional, conservative fundraising service.

But $325,302.41 came from a variety of political action committees (PACs) that are not so easily swayed by emotional appeals. These PACs represent a wide variety of industries, associations, corporations and fellow politicians. The biggest sectors contributing to Donalds’ primary and general election campaign are insurance, finance, banking and energy.

They are the organizations and businesses to which Donalds is beholden. Voters should be aware of the sources of this cash and its influence on his decisionmaking on Nov. 8 when they vote for him—or Democrat Cindy Banyai.

In 2021, after Donalds denied that he was influenced by his donors, The Paradise Progressive did a two-part analysis of his ideological and industry backers.

As the 2022 general election campaign season kicks into high gear, it’s time to take another look at Donalds’ corporate backers. These are the companies and industries whom he will be serving if returned to Congress in November.

Donalds sits on House committees and subcommittees that have a direct impact on these industries.

One is the House Oversight and Reform Committee where he sits on the Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee.

His other assignment is potentially even more impactful. On the House Small Business Committee, he sits on the Oversight, Investigations, and Regulations Subcommittee as well as the Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access Subcommittee.

These subcommittee assignments give him influence that attracts corporate contributions.

(Of note: none of the facts reported below allege illegality or criminality. They are activities reported to the FEC as required by campaign finance laws and regulations. All numbers are year-to-date figures as of Aug. 8.)

Big Insurance

The insurance industry is heavily regulated and generally unpopular in the public imagination (think of all those personal injury attorneys inveighing against greedy insurance companies in local television commercials).

Whether they agree with individual lawmakers’ policy positions or not, at the very least, it’s worth it to the insurance industry to invest in political campaigns to keep potential investigations and new regulations at bay.

Insurance-related PACs have been very good to Donalds, both trade associations and individual companies.

Over the past year, Donalds’ most generous contributor was the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies PAC, which contributed $22,000 to his general election campaign.

That was followed by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors PAC, which contributed $10,000 to his primary election campaign.

The Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, Inc., PAC kicked in $8,500 to his general election campaign, while the American Council of Life Insurers PAC gave $2,500 to his primary campaign.

Individual insurance companies’ PACs contributed too:

  • The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. Federal PAC contributed $4,500 to his primary campaign.
  • Cigna Corp. PAC, which supported Donalds’ 2020 campaign, contributed $3,500 to his primary campaign this year.
  • New York Life Insurance Company PAC contributed $2,500 to his primary campaign.

Big finance

The financial industry is heavily affected by congressional actions, so Donalds received contributions from a variety of finance-related companies and trade associations:

Regions Financial Corporation PAC contributed $5,000 to Donalds’ primary campaign and $22,000 to his general election campaign.

ACPAC ACA International PAC (The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals) represents credit reporting and collection agencies. It contributed $5,000 to Donalds’ primary campaign and $10,000 to his general election campaign.

The Credit Union Legislative Action Council PAC of the Credit Union National Association gave $5,000 to Donalds’ primary campaign and $7,500 to his general election campaign.

Navient Corp., provides education loan management and business processing solutions. Its PAC contributed $5,000 to Donalds’ primary campaign. Perhaps not accidentally, Donalds was a ferocious critic of President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program. A large part of Navient’s business is managing and collecting existing student loans.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association PAC contributed $1,000 to Donalds’ primary campaign.

When it comes to investment-related associations and companies, Donalds has the backing of LPL Financial LLC PAC. LPL is a registered investment advisory firm that contributed $5,000 to his primary campaign and $7,500 to his general campaign.

In terms of investor-related associations, the Small Business Investor Alliance PAC contributed $4,000 to his primary campaign and the American Investment Council PAC contributed $2,500. The latter represents private equity investors who invest in companies that don’t offer shares on public stock exchanges. The move to private equity has been blamed by critics for looting otherwise healthy companies and harming workers.

Big Banking

Among banks, Community Bancshares of Mississippi Inc., PAC is the only individual bank PAC to contribute to Donalds, donating $3,000 to his primary campaign. Claiming to be one of the fastest growing banks in the southern United States, Community Bancshares, formerly Farmers and Merchants Bank, based in Brandon, Miss., claims $4.5 billion in assets, 54 offices, and over 850 personnel in four states.

While that may be the only individual contributing bank, that doesn’t mean the banking industry has overlooked Donalds.

The American Bankers Association PAC has been a particularly enthusiastic backer, kicking in $17,500 for the general election campaign.

Also contributing to the general election campaign was the Mortgage Bankers Association PAC, which contributed $10,000.

Another banking-related contributor was the Independent Community Bankers of America PAC, which contributed $3,000 to the primary campaign.

Big energy

Donalds doesn’t discriminate between money from fossil fuel and electric power companies—he takes money from both.

Marathon Petroleum Corporation Employees PAC contributed the largest allowable amount to Donalds’ general election campaign: $7,500.

Another fossil fuel and energy company, Valero Energy Corp. PAC, based in San Antonio, Texas, gave the next largest amount among the energy companies: $5,000 for Donalds’ primary campaign.

Nextera Energy Inc., claims to be the world’s largest utility company. Its PAC contributed $2,500 to Donalds’ primary campaign.

Duke Energy is an electric power and natural gas holding company headquartered in Charlotte, NC. Its PAC contributed $2,000 to Donalds’ primary campaign.

The PAC of the Tampa Electric Company (TECO) Energy Inc., Employees’ PAC, contributed $1,000 to Donalds’ primary election campaign.

All these were the PACs of individual companies. But in the energy sector, Donalds did receive a contribution from a single trade association: the Solar Energy Industries Association PAC contributed $1,000 to his primary campaign.

Big tobacco

Two major tobacco PACs contributed to Donalds’ campaigns:

The Swisher International Inc., PAC Fund is the PAC of Swisher International Inc., a tobacco company based in Jacksonville, Fla. Swisher has been in business since 1861 and according to its website, ships more than two billion cigars a year to more than 70 countries.

Altria Group, Inc. PAC is the PAC of one of the world’s largest producers and marketers of tobacco, cigarettes and related products. Altria companies include Philip Morris, US Smokeless Tobacco Co., and John Middleton, a producer of pipe and cigar tobacco.

Other PACs of note

In addition to these industries, some additional contributors stand out.

  • Koch Industries, Inc., PAC contributed $5,000 to the primary campaign. This is the company of the well-known and extremely conservative Koch brothers.
  • Florida Sugar Cane League PAC contributed $3,500 to the primary campaign. The sugar industry has been criticized for allegedly polluting Lake Okeechobee, a criticism sugar companies reject.
  • Publix Super Markets, Inc. Associates PAC contributed $1,000 to the primary campaign. (More about Publix’s political activities can be read here: “Publix: Where politics bring no pleasure.”)

A full list of Donalds’ PAC contributors can be seen on the FEC website and accessed here.

Liberty lives in light

©2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

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