The construction industry has long been a power player in the arena of political campaign contributions. Industry participation in the 2002 midterm elections shows that trend continuing. Click here to view campaign contributions

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group based in Washington, D.C., reports the construction sector has contributed $6.3 million to federal candidates as of Sept. 9, through political action committees. Of that amount, $4.6 million, or 73%, was donated to Republicans seeking federal office. The remaining $1.7 million went to Democratic war chests. General contractors contributed just under $2 million, homebuilders donated $1.7 million and specialty trade contractors gave $458,479. Building materials and equipment firms contributed $1.2 million and construction services firms gave just under $1 million. For the last midterm election cycle in 1998, construction donated $8.3 million.

The level of involvement in federal elections has increased along with the rate of giving, say industry sources. Certain issues will also drive donations. Bill Spencer, vice president of government affairs for Associated Builders and Contractors, says the group's top priority is to return the Senate to GOP leadership. So far this year, ABC has raised $735,000, the most money it has ever raised in a calendar year. For the last midterm election cycle, ABC contributed just over $1 million to federal candidates. For the current two-year cycle, ABC has donated more than $1.3 million so far. This election "is crucial to construction businesses and their employees," adds Spencer.

For the first time, Associated General Contractors reached the million-dollar level in contributions to its PAC. "We're helping out those candidates that we feel will represent the needs of the construction industry," says a spokesman. Jeff Shoaf, AGC's senior executive director of congressional relations, says he expects more pressure to raise hard money through PACs once a ban on soft money contributions goes into effect after this election. Shoaf also expects a shift from corporate donations to more PAC contributions if new campaign finance reforms survive a court battle.

Building trades unions also continue to be top contributors. For the 1998 cycle, the unions gave $8.6 million. As of Sept. 9, the unions contributed $12.8 million for the current cycle. About $8.6 million of that was in PAC funds; $4.2 million was in soft money, and $27,240 was received from individuals. The carpenters' union leads the field, giving $3.2 million compared to $1.6 million in the last midterm cycle.

The amount of donations to both Democrats and Republicans is up, which is "significant," say carpenters' insiders. Yet the union "is pretty clear that keeping a Democratic Senate is an important priority," says a union official. The union also has recognized more GOP House members who support key issues.