Trucking donations go to GOP candidates in ’06

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As in previous election cycles, trucking organizations and fleets strongly favor Republican candidates in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group that tracks political contributions. Nationwide, all 435 U.S. House seats, 33 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats and 36 of the 50 state governorships are up for grabs Nov. 7. The Republican majority on Capitol Hill could be lost if the Democrats gain 15 House seats and six Senate seats.

Among the top 20 transportation contributors to federal candidates and parties for 2006, as of Sept. 11, United Parcel Service was No. 1, with 68 percent of its $2.06 million going to Republican candidates, the center reported. Also on the transportation list, FedEx was No. 3, the American Trucking Associations was No. 11, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was No. 20. Among the top trucking-specific contributors, the ATA gave the most with $599,629, of which 78 percent went to Republican candidates and parties. OOIDA contributed $215,464, of which 79 percent went to Republican candidates and parties.

When voting, don’t overlook state races, says Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president. “Key issues that drivers can have impact on, specific to states, are toll roads and privatization,” Spencer says. Many states are considering adding or increasing tolls or privatizing bridges and roads to pay for improvements and maintenance.

Spencer cited Indiana as an example of a state where truckers can make their voice heard on an issue. In the spring, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into a law a bill that leased the state’s toll road to a foreign consortium for 75 years. The lease contains a noncompete clause preventing competing roads to be upgraded, “literally forcing truck and car drivers to use the toll road,” Spencer says. The plan was supported by most Republican legislators and opposed by most Democrats, according to OOIDA’s website. “If truckers reject lawmakers who voted in favor of the lease, that sends a message around the country,” Spencer says.

In Alabama, Republican Gov. Bob Riley, a former trucking company owner, is up for re-election this year. Other candidates with trucking backgrounds include U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., who holds a CDL and launched his own trucking company; he faces a close race against Democrat Baron Hill.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the candidate who received the most from trucking contributors was U.S. Sen. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., who received $63,200, followed By U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., who received $55,400. Talent, who represents OOIDA’s home state, is the co-author of the CDL language in the recent port-security bill.

Among purely PAC contributions to federal candidates this election cycle, trucking PACs gave 80 percent of their $1.1 million to Republicans and the rest to Democrats. Only two PACs gave more than $100,000: The American Trucking Associations contributed $502,129 and OOIDA $195,891. Both organizations strongly favored Republicans in their contributions.

The largest single donation the ATA gave to an individual candidate was $10,000 each, all to Republicans: U.S. Reps. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Eric Cantor of Virginia, and U.S. Sens. Conrad Burns of Montana, Mark Kennedy of Minnesota and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

OOIDA contributed $5,000 to Blunt; Ben Chandler, D-Ky.; Ron Lewis, R-Ky.; Anne Northup, R-Ky.; and U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. The association gave its largest single contributions to U.S. Sen. Peter Hoekstra, R-Maine ($7,000), and U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. ($6,500).