News from the Tennessee Valley Business

Business, politics intertwined

Politics and business often intertwine, a fact reinforced by recent lobbyist disclosures. Companies with a presence in the Decatur area were some of the nation’s big spenders on lobbyists in the first half of 2007. Lobbyists filed their disclosures with the U.S. Senate last month.

A sampling:

BP America Inc. paid lobbyists at least $2.9 million. Among the lobbyists’ duties was petitioning members of Congress on issues related to energy independence, renewable fuels and the Prudhoe Bay oil pipeline in Alaska.

Even bankrupt Calpine Corp. lobbied. It paid $140,000 for lobbying “on issues related to energy trading regulations, geothermal energy development, climate change and power plant emissions.”

Another bankrupt company, Delphi, paid $500,000 to lobbyists who focused on manufacturing matters, alternative fuels, greenhouse gas emissions, satellite radio and border security. And bankrupt Solutia paid more than $80,000 advocating the social benefits of protective glass in automobiles.

Vulcan Materials Co. paid $600,000 for law firms to lobby the federal government on asbestos litigation legislation.

General Electric paid more than $1 million to various lobbying firms in the first half of the year. Among other issues, they lobbied Congress regarding proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Del Monte, owner of Meow Mix, gave lobbyists $140,000 to advocate labeling identifying products’ country of origin.

Nucor paid $1.2 million to lobbyists in the first half of the year, with the main issues being trade reform, energy policy and clean air legislation.

Boeing Co., which owns half of United Launch Alliance, paid lobbyists $4.1 million to lobby the federal government on funding for NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the departments of State and Homeland Security.

3M Co. paid more than $1 million for lobbying on issues ranging from emissions control systems to highway safety.

Politics of business

The forms don’t say which side of the issues the lobbyists were instructed to advocate, but they say enough to give a hint of the amusing contradictions in the politics of business.

The extent of such contradictions promises to make for a fun presidential election in 2008. Businesses may line up with the Republican party on fiscal issues, but there is no such predictability on other issues.

Universal health care, once an exclusively Democrat issue, is increasingly attractive to businesses like General Motors, which is drowning in health care costs. GM estimates such costs add about $1,500 to every car it makes. Both Solutia and Delphi cited health-care costs as major factors in their decisions to file for bankruptcy.

Liberal immigration rules, traditionally a Democratic plank, are popular among employee-starved businesses. Locally, Wayne Farms relies heavily on immigrants in its poultry processing plants.

Free trade, a traditional Republican favorite, finds angry skeptics at Nucor and Independence Tube.

So will Democrats be the new “party of business?” Stranger things have happened.

Contact Eric Fleischauer at

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