Business Donors Firmly Back Wilson : McCarthy Favored by Labor, Shunned by Industry, Study Shows

Times Staff Writer

Sen. Pete Wilson has emerged as the clear favorite of business contributors while his Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, has largely been ignored by industry, according to a study of campaign donations conducted for The Times.

The detailed analysis of political action committee contributions provides sharply contrasting pictures of the two Senate candidates: Wilson, who has collected large amounts of money from a broad array of industries, and McCarthy, who has received generous support from organized labor and other traditional backers of Democratic candidates but relatively little from any major sector of the business community.

Wilson, for example, collected $243,000 in donations from the defense industry’s political action committees during 1987 and the first eight months of 1988. McCarthy received nothing from the military contractors during the same period.

Similarly, Wilson accepted $408,000 from the manufacturing industry while his Democratic rival received $8,500. And the Republican senator raised $210,000 from agricultural interests compared to $7,000 for McCarthy.


The same pattern is repeated over and over in contributions from political action committees that have interests in oil, nuclear power, land development, health care, communications, insurance, mining, transportation and chemical manufacturing, among others.

The study, prepared for The Times by Washington-based Sunshine News Services, illustrates the power Wilson has as an incumbent to raise campaign funds from special-interest groups with a vital stake in congressional actions.

The former San Diego mayor collected substantially more money than McCarthy in every one of 63 separate categories of business group donations examined in the study.

Wilson has been particularly successful in collecting contributions from industries affected by the three Senate committees on which he sits: Armed Services, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Commerce, Science and Transportation.


“It helps to have committee assignments in the U.S. Senate,” said Edward Roeder, editor of the Sunshine News Service. “He has done quite well wherever he sits on a committee or key subcommittee.”

McCarthy, who is trailing Wilson in the polls, said the study bolsters his contention that Wilson is the candidate of corporations that seek favorable treatment in Congress. McCarthy has repeatedly attacked Wilson as a captive of special-interest groups, adopting the theme for his television commercials: “Pete Wilson, a senator for them; Leo McCarthy, a senator for us.”

“I think the study reveals dramatically that Pete Wilson is the senator for corporate and PAC groups that can help him at election time,” McCarthy said. “How much of his time and power does he allocate to just doing what’s right, to addressing important problems, even if there are no campaign contributions in sight?”

The Wilson campaign, however, contends that the large amounts of money the senator has collected demonstrates the wide backing he enjoys after nearly six years in office.

“I think it shows the breadth of the support he has had throughout his entire campaign,” said Otto Bos, Wilson’s campaign manager. “They like the stances he takes.”

Bos said Wilson is not influenced in his decisions by the contributions he receives and, at times, has voted against the wishes of those who have given him money.

“Wilson makes decisions on the merits and in some cases we have fought these industries,” he said. “There will be times when he agrees with these groups and sometimes when he disagrees.”

During the period of the study, from January, 1987, through August, 1988, Wilson received a total of $1.3 million in contributions from political action committees of all types. McCarthy collected $621,000 from such committees during the same time.


Of Wilson’s total, nearly $1.2 million came from business groups while only $4,600 came from labor organizations. Another $49,000 was contributed by conservative-oriented committees.

In contrast, McCarthy received $72,000 from business political action committees while collecting $331,000 from unions. He also received $145,000 from liberal-oriented committees.

Both candidates raised substantially more political action committee money from outside California than from within.

Wilson received $884,000 from out-of-state political action committees and $445,000 from inside California. McCarthy raised $533,000 from political action committees outside California but only $88,000 from committees within the state.

Donations Not Listed

Contributions from individuals, which make up most of both candidates’ receipts, were not included in the study. Money that Wilson raised during his first four years in office also was not counted in the analysis.

By Election Day, Wilson could raise and spend as much as $15 million on his bid for reelection. McCarthy hopes to spend $9 million on his underdog candidacy.

In analyzing the political action committee contributions, the study breaks down the donations into 110 separate interest group categories. In cases where a committee has multiple interests, its contributions are recorded in each applicable category. Thus, contributions are often counted more than once.


One of the more striking contrasts between the two candidates is in the area of transportation, one of Wilson’s committee assignments. The senator collected a total of $266,000 from political action committees with various transportation interests, compared to McCarthy’s $7,100. In particular, Wilson raised $103,000 from groups with an interest in aviation while McCarthy got $1,000. And Wilson received $80,000 from groups with an interest in the automotive industry while McCarthy got nothing.

Wilson’s membership on the Commerce Committee’s communications subcommittee also was evidenced by contributions from those with interests in publishing, entertainment, broadcasting, telecommunications and advertising. He received $227,000 from such groups, compared to $2,500 for McCarthy.

Although Wilson, like McCarthy, is opposed to offshore oil drilling, he received $132,000 from the oil industry’s political action committees, compared to $11,600 for McCarthy. Wilson also received $72,000 from the nuclear power industry while his Democratic rival received $500.

Development Groups

Wilson, who as mayor of San Diego was once an advocate of slow growth, received $221,000 from groups with an interest in land development and real estate management. McCarthy got $13,000 from such political action committees.

The senator also was successful in raising money from the nation’s financial community, collecting $306,000 in comparison to McCarthy’s $34,700. Among Wilson’s contributions was $96,000 from the insurance industry’s political action committees.

And Wilson did well in the area of trade, raising more than McCarthy by $232,000 to $11,000. In particular, the senator received $144,000 from retail trade groups, compared with $7,800 for his Democratic rival.

McCarthy, while largely unsuccessful in raising money from business political action committees, fared somewhat better in collecting contributions from committees that were ideologically oriented.

He received $123,000 from liberal and Democratic committees, which included the committees of a number of Democratic elected officials. By comparison, Wilson raised $41,000 from conservative and Republican groups.

McCarthy also received $19,500 from groups identified as “doves” and none from the “hawks,” who gave $16,200 to Wilson. The senator got none from the “doves.”

But Wilson, who has strongly supported Israel in the Senate, raised substantially more than the Democratic contender among pro-Israeli and Zionist political action committees, $58,600 to $12,500.

In all, McCarthy received well over half of all his political action committee contributions during the period from labor organizations. Environmentalists and consumer advocates, whom McCarthy counts among his backers, provided little support through political action committee donations.

Wilson has used much of the money he has raised to pay for television advertising, which has helped him maintain a strong lead in public opinion polls throughout the long campaign. A Times Poll published last week showed Wilson with a 17-point lead over McCarthy.

McCarthy’s shortage of money, and a lack of public attention on the race, has left the Democratic candidate frustrated as the Nov. 8 election day approaches.

“Pete Wilson has spent six years concentrating on doing things as a senator that were narrowly designed to help him get reelected,” McCarthy said. “Where is the service to that large part of the public that is not represented by political action committees who contribute? This is what we’ve been saying: a senator for them and a senator for us.”


Republican Sen. Pete Wilson and Democratic Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, the candidates for the U.S. Senate, have received substantial contributions from political action committees. A study by the Washington-based Sunshine News Services found that Wilson has received significantly more contributions from business groups while McCarthy has collected more from labor organizations. Here is a breakdown of contributions by the expressed interests of each political action committee. In cases where a committee represents multiple interests, its contributions are counted in each relevant category. Thus, contributions are often counted more than once. Campaign contributions from individuals are not included in the study, which covers the period from January, 1987, through August, 1988.

WILSON CATEGORY McCARTHY 131,550 Petroleum 11,599 71,941 Nuclear Industry 500 103,052 Aviation 1,000 80,430 Automotive 0 46,565 Commercial Banking 2,250 140,933 Trusts & Holding Companies 16,849 95,647 Insurance Industry 16,500 226,525 Communications 2,500 164,780 Chemical Industry 8,750 44,911 Non-Fuel Mining 500 408,026 Manufacturing 8,500 210,048 Agriculture, Other Than Forestry 7,000 210,200 Health Industry 23,349 242,849 Principal Military Contractors 0 221,105 Land Mgt. & Development 13,000 153,892 Food, Beverage Processing & Distribution 6,979 109,461 Utilities 11,599 232,004 Trade 10,828 4,600 Labor Unions or Union Organizations 330,950 0 Left/Liberal/Progressive/Democrats 122,949 41,290 Right/Conservative/Republicans 0 16,209 Hawks 0 0 Doves 19,495 58,600 Pro-Israel or Zionist 12,500 10,250 Equal Rights--Race, Ethnicity, Age, Sex 20,700 26,083 Ideological Advocates of Business 1,000 50 Environmentalist 4,000 0 Consumer Advocates 0 0 Gun Control Advocates 0 0 Veterans’ Organizations 15,500 TOTALS 1,328,702 Total PAC Contributions 621,022 445,097 Amount from PACs in State 88,265 883,605 Amount from PACs Out-of-State 532,757 1,184,552 Total from Business Groups 71,928 4,600 Total from Union Organizations 330,950 300 Amount from Liberals 145,144 48,890 Amount from Conservatives 0