If money is the mother's milk of politics, then America's big corporations are Big Mama, and Big Baby is the Republican Party suckling at the enormous bosom of business. Democrats, meanwhile, are abandoned brats scrounging for nourishment wherever they can find it.
During the long decades the Democrats held a solid majority in Congress, campaign donations from the corporate world were spread around between incumbents in both parties -- not evenly, but at least the D's got their share. Since the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, however, corporate dollars have increasingly flowed in one direction.
This happened, in part, because Republican leaders like Tom "The Hammer" DeLay instituted a program to punish corporate lobbyists who were too bipartisan with their donations. Even more significantly, the evolution of the GOP into a militantly anti-tax and anti-regulation party has made Republican policy goals and the political aims of big corporations indistinguishable.
Now, in 2012, the discrepancy in campaign contributions is stark. Where once big business favored the GOP by 2 to 1, a survey by the Center for Responsive Politics has found Republicans enjoying a 7 to 1 advantage in some sectors. Energy companies, in particular, are giving heavily to Republican candidates, but so are financial institutions, insurance companies, real estate firms and agribusiness.
In addition to direct contributions, corporate givers -- unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling allowing unlimited contributions to independent political action committees -- are dumping massive amounts of money into conservative super PACs. And those super PACs are certainly not coming to the aid of any Democrats.
Even as an incumbent president, Barack Obama is having a tough time attracting corporate dollars. Hedge fund managers who gave big to his campaign in 2008 are putting their political investments elsewhere in 2012. He may have saved Wall Street from its own excesses and provided the bailouts that allowed the financial moguls to hold on to their fortunes, but they are not showing President Obama any gratitude. They would prefer to have one of their own, Mitt Romney, in the White House.
The president is the one Democrat in the country who will be able to come up with whatever money he needs to run an effective campaign. Democratic candidates for the Senate and House will not be so lucky. Already, underfunded incumbents like Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri are being pummeled by a tornado of attack ads coming from corporate-funded super PACs.
Corporate America has always gotten a good return on its investment in politics. Business interests hold inordinate sway over the legislation that affects them (heck, their lobbyists write most of the bills). Now, though, with the Republican Party as their wholly owned subsidiary, the titans of industry apparently feel no need to hedge their bets by helping out a few Democrats.
The corporations no longer pretend they do not have a favorite child. They have picked their favorite and, like a doting mother, they will hold him close, they will baby him, they will keep him fat and happy and they will ask for only one thing in return: obedience.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.