(Associated Press) Companies seeking to influence lawmakers have found that it often pays to donate to nonprofits and charities (that are directly supported by government officials, that is). It has been revealed that in 2009 and 2010, corporations and their lobbyists contributed tens of millions of dollars to organizations that have been linked to congressional and executive-branch members, likely with the hopeful intention of gaining legislative influence.
Bill Allison, Editorial Director of the Sunlight Foundation that provided such statistics, emphasizes in the Associated Press the benefit for companies to make such donations. “By giving millions to nonprofits and charities that lawmakers have a connection to, lobbyists and special interests have a very discreet way of currying favor with the members of Congress they’re trying to influence, one that the public is rarely aware of.”
Boeing provides a prime example of such a situation. While lobbying against a rival aerospace company to win a $35 billion government contract, it was revealed that the company simultaneously made a $10,000 donation to the Symphony Orchestra in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Likely non-coincidental, the organization was a favorite of Rep. John Murtha, “the late Pennsylvania Democrat who, as a gatekeeper for the Defense Department’s budget, held a lot of influence over Pentagon contracting,” notes the AP article, and the donation to it significantly aided in the company’s eventual success in winning the contract.
Despite perhaps a questionable ethical dilemma, the scenario is undoubtedly a “win-win.”