1999: More of the Same

Article excerpt

When the dust clears after the impeachment process ends, the U.S. Congress will turn its attention to issues of greatest concern to special interests. Here is a sneak peak at some of what is to come - and the investments generous contributors have made to keep their bottom lines intact. All totals are based on data downloaded from the Federal Election Commission on December 1, 1998.

AIRLINES. Total: $3.8 million, 59 percent to Republicans. Six of the major airlines and the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) have stepped up their political involvement - reporting lobbying expenditures of $5.6 million in the first six months of 1998, a 42 percent increase from the same period in 1997.

This hike in spending comes as Congress prepares to consider 1998 Department of Transportation airline competition rules and proposals to give smaller carriers access to some of the nation's biggest airports. The six large carriers - American, Northwest, United, US Airways, Delta and Continental - and the ATA account for 84 percent of total industry campaign contributions in the 1997-98 election cycle.

Southwest has taken a back seat in the competition debate - reflected in the company's lobbying expenses dropping from $880,000 in the first six months of 1997 to $80,000 in the same period in 1998. In June 1997, Southwest lost a heated months-long battle with the larger carriers over how to tax airline tickets.

BANKRUPTCY. Total. $4.2 million, 62 percent to Republicans. Visa, MasterCard and the American Financial Services Association - the National Consumer Bankruptcy Coalition (NCBC) members most intensely focused on tightening personal bankruptcy laws - distributed nearly $374,000 in campaign contributions so far in the 1997-98 election cycle.

But their political contributions do not end there. In the first six months of 1998, while the House debated and eventually passed coalition-backed legislation that would make it much harder to declare personal bankruptcy, the three credit interests spent $4.5 million on lobbying. This was almost four times what they spent during the same period in 1997.

Creditors' fight to pass a law requiring bankrupt individuals to commit to a debt repayment plan if they meet a certain income threshold will continue in 1999. Legislation died last Congress during final House and Senate negotiations.

GAMBLING. Total: $5.05 million, 60 percent to Republicans. The next couple of months will be crucial for casinos and Indian tribes, as they await a possible recommendation by the Gambling Impact Study Commission to impose new federal regulations on the industry. Gambling interests will also fight proposals to restrict gambling cruises that operate in international waters.

The industry is no stranger to Capitol Hill, steadily increasing its campaign contributions over the last several cycles. Donations from gambling PACs in the 1998 elections were up 93 percent over the previous cycle. …