One of economic professor David Brat’s central criticisms of Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor was that the House majority leader was too cozy with big business, leaving him more concerned about his relationships with K Street lobbyists than with his constituents.
Although there are many reasons for Cantor’s shocking defeat last week, Brat’s attacks on the appearance of “crony capitalism” do seem to have resonated with voters in Virginia’s 7th District. Cantor’s ouster forced House Republicans to choose a new leader, and all signs suggest that they will choose House Whip Kevin McCarthy, who has launched an aggressive campaign for the post over the past week, when Cantor steps down from House leadership at the end of July.
But those expecting a real leadership shakeup from the replacement of Cantor by McCarthy will have to keep waiting. On policy, conservatives say McCarthy doesn’t represent much change at all — and may even be more moderate than the outgoing Cantor. And when it comes to donations from big industries, McCarthy’s not much different from the man he hopes to replace, either.
Campaign finance disclosures show that donations to McCarthy, both through his campaign and his leadership PAC, come from many of the same industries as did donations to Cantor. According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, five industries — securities and investment, real estate, pharmaceuticals, health professionals, and insurance — ranked as the top five sources of campaign donations for both men, and in the same order.
PACs and employees from Goldman Sachs, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the Charmer Sunbelt Group top the list of donors for both Cantor and McCarthy.
The other major sources of campaign donations for McCarthy’s campaign and leadership PAC include California-based tech firms, such as Hewlett-Packard and Google. McCarthy has also received $40,500 in donations from a group called “Votesane PAC,” a nonpartisan online portal that was built in 2010 to make it easier for donors to give to candidates from both parties. A review of Votesane PAC’s Federal Election Commission filings show that many of its contributors are individual real estate agents based in California.
Like Cantor, McCarthy has (wisely) offered financial aid to dozens of House candidates through his PAC, spending more than $2.4 million on fellow Republicans since 2006. The number pales in comparison to the amount Cantor’s PAC has doled out — $8.3 million to more than 500 candidates in the past decade — but McCarthy’s investments, combined with Cantor’s blessing, will no doubt help him in Thursday’s leadership election.