What if members of Congress were seated not by party but according to their major business sponsors?

If you want to understand why Finance Reform was so milquetoast, note how significant it is in both the Senate and House. The following shows the US elected Senators and Representatives by the dominant campaign contribution:


click for full list of congresscritters

Its not quite the Nascar idea, but it communicates by sector whose money is influencing whom.


Who Owns Congress? A Campaign Cash Seating Chart
Dave Gilson
Mother Jones, September/October 2010

Category: Politics, Regulation

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

26 Responses to “Who Owns Congress?”

  1. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    I’m not at all worried about big labor, as a greater share of the wealth of the nation should be going to the working class. Those on the payroll of the healthcare industry, lawyers and lobbyists, should be sent packing.

    As for finance, insurance, and RE, these are the folks who are robbing the Treasury:


  2. doug says:

    It is interesting that ‘defense’ is not very high on the list, yet so powerful. Maybe has something to do with each district getting tax money spent on defense mfg? Are they using our tax dollars rather than donations to get votes? clever indeed…

  3. gloppie says:

    not you not me owns clowns.

    repeat 10 times, spin head, get dizzy.

    Cheap high.

  4. ET says:

    The reason the finance sector sits on the left of the Senate chamber is that they are for the socialization of losses.

  5. Moss says:

    Not surprising since the FIRE group has relied so heavily on laws. The defense industry is so well established plus they have the Pentagon, not to mention Home Land Security to do their bidding. The Pentagon is the biggest lobby group ever created. It would be interesting to also see the governmental agencies associated with each category. The FDA, Mineral Management etc. basically do the bidding for the drugs and energy groups.

  6. wally says:

    This is all too rich for me; I cannot afford even one lone congressperson.

  7. curbyourrisk says:

    The banks do. Who got bailed out??? Who is about to have laws changed to prevent them from being detonated by this mortgage fraud they perpetrated against the American people???

  8. jnutley says:

    Not satisfied with this chart at all. Just going to the actual article, I see that Sen Reid’s is listed with the lawyers, but only got 17% of his donations from Legal concerns. They should have given him a neon colored spot and labeled it “Gambling”. That by itself makes me think that the research here is insufficient across the board. Sen Boxer is even worse, labeled a lawyer with only 7% of donations from legal groups. Why isn’t she represented as Hollywood’s Senator?

    This is a fine idea, and I would really like to see it done right, but the catagories are improperly applied. More FUD than Info here.

  9. WFTA says:

    The easier question is “Who doesn’t own Congress?”

    You, da lit’le guy.

  10. [...] Lawyers! We’re slacking. Via The Big Picture. [...]

  11. RW says:

    I’m at least 2/3′s with jnutley here: This kind of analysis is worthwhile but more nuance in categorization and influence (possibly by % of bills pro or con an interest group that gives them money) could make it stronger and more suggestive.

    I suppose when elections were relatively less expensive and more politicians were made of tougher stuff the influence of money might have been somewhat less pernicious (never not pernicious mind you, just less so) but the days when a Big Daddy Unruh could say of lobbyists “[I]f you can’t take their money, drink their liquor, fuck their women, and then come in here the next day and vote against them, you don’t belong here” and actually mean it seem largely gone; interest groups not only move congress-critters around these days, they employ them (revolving door) and their lobbyists write the bills for them.

  12. cpd says:

    It would be interesting to see the breakdown by party, particularly for the senate. I bet the number of senators owned by the banks is fairly evenly split between republicans and democrats. In other words, this nightmare goes way beyond left and right. People locked into their political bunkers should focus on the bigger picture.

  13. fatcatbanker says:


    It has been an interesting couple of days reading about the foreclosure mills yesterday and today the ownership of congress. After reading this post about who owned congress I went on to read Yves Smith’s post on naked capitalism about foreclosure mills/ bank profits/ shortcuts (http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2010/10/paging-elizbeth-warren-california-congressmen-call-for-foreclosure-probe-bank-sub-rosa-pushback-underway.html ) .

    Then jumped here to check on the passage of HR 3808 (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-3808 ) .

    If you combine the following 4 things:

    1) A seemingly endless alphabet soup of bailout programs for the banks (versus bailout of the banking system) that had little if any perceived impact for the average voter.

    2) Banks, correctly, foreclosing on debtors/homeowners/deadbeats/victims (pick your own noun depending on your point of view) when they can not pay their obligations.

    3) Apparently, the banks screwed the pooch when they originally set up all the MBS and fixing their self created errors will apparently cost big bucks.

    4) But, the banks/fraudsters/kleptocrats/deep pocket donors (again pick you own noun) are getting their bought and paid for representatives in congress to bail them out once again through legislation. (Note that HR 3808 was passed by voice vote and unanimous consent so every member of congress can deny voting for it when the $hit hits the fan and the voters realize what happened)

    If capitalism is good for the “debtors/homeowners/deadbeats/victims” when they break the rules (i.e. stop paying), it should also be good enough for the “banks/fraudsters/kleptocrats/deep pocket donors” when they create/sell products that do not comply with the rules.

    Is it any wonder there are a bunch of angry voters? Frankly I am somewhat surprised that we only have the Tea Party and the pitchforks are still in the barn.

  14. advocatusdiaboli says:

    Interesting that energy has so small a “share” of our democracy–that is why they needed GW Bush and Dick Cheney so badly in the White House–those guys were their dogs in the fight. If they’d have relied on Congress, they’d not have accomplished all they did with such a small voice.

  15. dad29 says:

    Either an interpretational error, or a calamity: ZERO of either house is ‘owned’ by manufacturers.

  16. pintelho says:

    interesting that labor has such a grasp on the House…yet labor has been screwed…maybe Labor really isn’t FOR labor at all…

    I guess all they get is a buncha jawboning about the Yuan for all that money.

  17. IS_LM says:

    This post is an interesting study in contrasts. It lists the 90 federal lawmakers who voted for Bush’s TARP but against Obama’s FinReg. The partisan breakdown isn’t particularly surprising. Maverick McCain, who received votes in 2008 from many posters on BR’s site, has taken about a million from big finance this year. He’s such a maverick.

  18. forwhomthebelltolls says:

    More importantly…

    Who run bartertown?

  19. DL says:

    The graphic of the House shows labor unions and lawyers making up nearly half of the “dots”. But when the Dems control the House, the Senate and the W.H., the labor unions and lawyers are basically running domestic policy. And when the Republicans control all three houses, the unions have very little power.

    The graphic is informative, but the amount of power wielded by each group varies with the makeup of Congress and the White House.

  20. randy says:

    Interesting charts, but incredibly short-sighted in two key regards.

    First, this only counts direct campaign contributions. It does not count money funneled to pet projects. For instance, a company donates money to the library where the senator’s wife is employed as a fundraiser, and the senator’s wife gets paid a commission on that donation. That sort of thing is not being counted in any way. My guess is that this type of soft money dwarfs the direct contributions.

    Second, this is a gross oversimplification. The chart says that because big pharma gave a specific congressmonkey more money than big oil did big pharma owns 100% of that monkey. Each dot needs to be a pie chart.

    We need to rearchitect the system to remove the money.

  21. Rescission says:

    Great chart showing why entrepreneurs and small business gets screwed.
    Hey, they are only just the backbone of the economy, but who cares?

  22. kaleberg says:

    I’ve always pushed for the NASCAR idea. They could put up company logos on CSPAN so you know who is talking, kind of the way they show stats on sports channels. “D-Iowa” and “R-Washington” aren’t as useful as knowing who bought and paid for what you’re seeing. As they used to say, “You can’t tell the players without a program.”

  23. [...] Those of you who still don’t think that this is the actual mechanism of our current Rube Goldberg machine, really need to just look a little deeper. [...]