WASHINGTON — Tony Podesta is one of the best-connected rainmakers in the nation’s capital, with a web of personal contacts stretching back 42 years and six Democratic presidential candidates. His brother John was Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff and an adviser on President Barack Obama’s transition team.
But in an uncharacteristic twist this year, people at Tony Podesta’s powerhouse lobbying firm have chosen to donate $32,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee to help its chairman, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, wrest control of the Senate from the Democrats.
Since Obama’s election, the political action committees and employees of 126 businesses that had donated money to Senate Democrats in the 2008 campaign have switched all or most of their 2010 contributions to the Republicans, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission reports by the Houston Chronicle. That list is led by prominent Wall Street firms but includes energy companies, manufacturers, lobbying operations and other groups with a monetary stake in Capitol Hill deliberations.
Not only have those 126 organizations decided to hedge their bets, they’re placing plenty of distance between themselves and the Democrats who control Capitol Hill. Their donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have dropped 25 percent this year, to $1.67 million.
“We’re seeing a shift from Democrats to Republicans because Wall Street and corporations see the political environment more conducive to the election of Republicans,” says Anthony Corrado Jr., a campaign finance scholar at Colby College in Maine. “These donors are looking at the prospect of Republican majority and hedging their bets.”