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Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Bush and big business
President George Bush
Bush's election campaign was extensively funded
By US affairs analyst Ben Wright

Money and American politics have always been intertwined.

Mark Hanna, who raised more than $70m in today's money as manager of William McKinley's 1896 presidential election campaign, said: "There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can't remember what the second one is."

US National Security advisor Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice has an oil tanker named after her
The 2000 election was the most expensive in history. The Bush campaign reputedly raised more than $191m, compared to just $133m raised by Al Gore.

The election again triggered the charge that the US political system is wide open for the buying of influence and access by lobby groups, corporations and individuals.

While both main parties have close ties to corporate America, the new president does seem particularly keen to legislate in the interests of business.

Bush's policies

Bush has already dismayed unions by dismantling a number of work-safety measures. He has also supported a bankruptcy bill that critics argue favours banks and credit card companies at the expense of the poor.

He has slashed the funding for a Clinton-appointed team of Justice Department lawyers, who are working to take on the tobacco companies for allegedly fraudulent marketing practices.

oil pipeline
Bush has been criticised for his environmental policies
The president outraged international opinion when he abandoned the Kyoto protocol on global warming in March.

He is also keen to push ahead with the opening up of Alaska to mining. American oil, electrical and mining companies are getting strong support from Bush's environmental policies.

The extent to which money lubricates the wheels of policy is impossible to quantify. What is clear, though, is that big money pulls a big punch in the new administration.

Many of the most prominent personalities have strong business links. Vice President Dick Cheney was, until last year, the CEO of Halliburton, the world's largest oil field services company. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.

Campaign finances

It is ironic that Bush's first 100 days saw the issue of campaign financing reform gain powerful momentum on Capitol Hill.

The McCain-Feingold bill is the first major campaign finance bill since the 1970s, and if enacted, it would ban the unlimited and unregulated donations to political parties known as soft money.

Recent figures from the Centre for Responsive Politics
The tobacco industry contributed over $ 7m to the Republicans, 83% of their total spending on political parties
Bush out-raised Gore among all 10 business sectors of the US economy
Energy interests gave more than $48.3m to the Republicans in 1999-2000
The finance, insurance and real estate sector gave over $15m to the Bush's election campaign
The oil and gas industry donated $25.4m to the Republican campaign
The amount of soft money in presidential campaigns rose from $90m in 1992 to nearly $500m in 2000. Because soft money is raised and spent outside the auspices of federal laws, it is often seen as the most corrosive form of political fundraising.

The bill would also impose tough fund-raising curbs on independent advocacy groups for so-called issue ads.

However, when the Senate approved the bill, it hiked the limits on federally controlled hard-money limits. This may mean that even if the bill is made law, campaign costs will continue to rise and major donors will keep their grip on American politics.

See also:

01 May 01 | Americas
First mile in a marathon
30 Apr 01 | Americas
Bush: The first 100 days
30 Apr 01 | Media reports
World media reviews Bush record
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