Political fundraisers in the accounting profession began shifting their largesse toward congressional Democrats after they won control over both the House and the Senate four years ago.
But now with Tea Party activists screaming for the heads of incumbents and Republican candidates showing strength across the country, is the accounting profession resurrecting its overwhelming partisan support for the GOP in time for the mid-term elections?
In fact, an exclusive Accounting Today analysis of Federal Election Commission filings as of mid-June indicates that political action committee fundraising groups sponsored by the profession have been channeling even more support to Democrats in the 2010 campaign than they did during the 2008 Obama victory.
Thus far in 2010, PACs from the major firms and the American Institute of CPAs have earmarked roughly 54 percent of their donations to the GOP. By contrast, during the last mid-term elections in 2006, those groups shelled out over $5.4 million to federal candidates, with about 70 percent earmarked for Republicans. But in 2008, with the GOP in the minority on Capitol Hill and about to lose the White House, the proportion of accounting campaign contributions to Republicans dropped sharply to 58 percent.
Although Democrats appear certain to lose considerable ground in Congress this November, accounting PACs are showing few signs of resuming their previous lopsided support for Republicans.
At the same time, during a period when incumbents from both parties are drawing fire from an angry electorate, political fundraisers for the accounting profession are showing little interest in supporting challengers for their seats, in part out of a reluctance to irritate incumbent senators and House members.
That's not to say political newcomers were cut off altogether. Republican businessman Tim Burns received $5,000 from the Deloitte PAC during his unsuccessful campaign for the seat of the late Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha; Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown collected $1,000 from the American Institute of CPAs' PAC in his successful bid for the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat; and Democrat Martha Coakley, who lost to Brown earlier this year, received $2,500 from the Ernst & Young PAC.
In each case, however, the non-incumbent recipient of industry PAC funds was vying for an already vacant House or Senate seat.
Meanwhile, Tea Party candidates - including Sarah Palin's "Momma Grizzlies," such as California Senate hopeful and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and Kentucky Senate hopeful Rand Paul - had yet to receive a dime from accounting PACs as of the mid-June filings.
Here's where the accounting PACs stand heading into this fall's elections:
The AICPA: The institute's PAC has donated $418,353 to federal candidates, with 57 percent of the funds going to Republicans. Top recipients include GOP House Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, and Republican Senate candidates Roy Blunt of Missouri and Michael Castle of Delaware, each of whom received the maximum $10,000 contribution.
Deloitte: The industry's largest and most active fundraising organization has so far contributed $844,000 to congressional hopefuls. Republicans received 54 percent of the total, with Blunt and Castle each collecting $10,000 for their Senate races, and an equal amount going to a number of House candidates, including Republicans Spencer Bachus of Alabama and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Democrats David Price of North Carolina and Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
Ernst & Young: E&Y's PAC made $524,500 in contributions to candidates through mid-June and channeled 60 percent of this money to Republicans. Among those receiving the $10,000 maximum from Ernst & Young's PAC: Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman of Ohio.
PricewaterhouseCoopers: PwC's PAC doled out more than $1 million to 2010 candidates, with Democrats on the receiving end of nearly half (47 percent). Recipients at the $10,000 level included Utah's Republican Senator Robert Bennett (before he fell victim to the Tea Party movement), and fellow GOPers Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho and Illinois House candidate Judy Biggert, as well as Democrats Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana.
KPMG: The KPMG PAC has so far contributed roughly $640,000, with 53 percent going to Republicans. Major recipients ($10,000 each) include Democratic House candidates Carolyn Maloney of New York, Paul Kanjorski in Pennsylvania, and Mike Ross of Arkansas, and, on the GOP side, Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Lamar Smith, both of Texas, and Rep. Thad McCotter of Michigan.
Grant Thornton: GT's PAC paid out $106,000, with 56 percent going to GOP hopefuls. Top recipients ($5,000 each) include Schumer and Republican House candidates Eric Cantor of Virginia, Spencer Bachus of Alabama, and California's Kevin McCarthy.
National Society of Accountants: The society's small PAC has paid out $14,500 so far to candidates in this year's elections. Democrats received 93 percent of these funds, with House members John Lewis of Georgia ($5,000) and New York's Nydia Velazquez ($4,500) taking the lion's share.
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