WASHINGTON — The lawmakers who voted against raising the debt ceiling last week count among their biggest donors the country’s most powerful banking lobby and companies such as Honeywell and AT&T — not just the activist conservative groups that have roiled the Republican Party.
The American Bankers Association, in fact, gave more money over the past two election cycles to GOP lawmakers who in effect voted to allow the United States to default on its debt than those who voted against that scenario.
The ABA contributed $2.2 million to lawmakers who ultimately ignored the group’s warnings, second only to the Club for Growth and just ahead of Koch Industries, both of which are leading sources of funds for conservative candidates.
The numbers, revealed in a joint analysis by The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics, illustrate the key role that big business donors played in supporting lawmakers who would later spurn one of the business community’s most emphatic requests not to vote for a default by the United States.
“Business lost this round” with Republicans, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which has analyzed donation patterns from last week’s vote. “It remains to be seen whether this produces any real change among business donors.”
Some lobbyists said the arrangement between business and the lawmakers will not be easy to untangle because the groups have been investing for so many years in the Republicans and their current leadership.
The chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Josten, said the debt ceiling roll call would be only one of many factors considered by the Chamber when it decides which candidates to support in 2014.
“Everyone has their own number one issue, and in the Chamber’s membership, again unlike any other association, we have a lot of members with a lot of different number one issues,” Josten said.
Similarly, Scott Talbott, senior vice president for policy at the Financial Services Roundtable, said: “This vote will be a factor in the future before we make contributions, though it will not necessarily determine the outcome.”
The Chamber made the Oct. 16 roll call a “key vote,” meaning it will be used to determine future endorsements of candidates. Club for Growth and Heritage Action did the same from the other side.
But trade groups and businesses may find it hard to hold lawmakers fully accountable.
Lawmakers such as House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, voted against raising the debt ceiling — a position that, if adopted, would have likely resulted in a default. But they are also considered important allies in traditional business fights against higher taxes and stronger financial regulation.
Lobbyists say they are also aware that some of the Republicans may have voted against raising the debt ceiling to give themselves political cover from angry tea party constituents, knowing there were enough votes to avoid a default.
The final tally showed that 161 Republicans, including potential presidential candidates such as Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, felt enough political pressure to vote against raising the debt ceiling despite dire warnings from business.
Although public attention during the 16-day shutdown focused on financial support flowing from groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, the new analysis shows that banks, investment houses and other mainstream business interests also funded the Republicans who played a role in the latest brush with a default by the United States.
At financial services firms, including hedge funds and major banks, contributions totaled more than $26 million over the past two election cycles to the Republican lawmakers who voted against a deal to reopen the government and avoid a first-ever debt default.