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Big Biz and Soft Money

Fueled by record corporate giving, Republicans have opened up a comfortable lead over Dems in the soft-money chase. While the two parties raised nearly identical amounts of the unlimited contributions from wealthy individuals, the GOP raked in 67% of Corporate America's $25.8 million in soft-money donations in the first half of 1999, according to Campaign Reform Project, a group backed by ex-investment banker Jerome Kohlberg.

Overall, the two parties have taken in $46 million in soft money this election cycle, with $27 million going to the GOP and $19 million to Dems. That's up 15% over the first six months of '97 and a 38% jump over the same period in '95.

The biggest soft-money donor, AT&T, raised its contributions from $269,921 in 1997-98 to $751,150--and counting. The giving accelerated with the November, 1997, arrival of CEO C. Michael Armstrong.

AT&T isn't the only telecom company upping the ante. Two others--SBC Communications and BellSouth--have almost tripled their soft-money donations in the past two years. While 70% of AT&T's largesse goes to the GOP, the other telecom donors more evenly divide their giving. The Democrats' share has increased from 23% to 36% since '97.

Philip Morris, Pfizer, and Enron are among the big corporations whose soft money overwhelmingly goes to the GOP. Business interests gave 10 times more than organized labor, which kicked in $2.5 million. But 92% of union cash went to Democrats.

By Richard S. Dunham