With control of the House at stake and several Senate races tight as the Nov. 7 elections approach, construction industry organizations and labor unions are pouring millions of dollars into candidates' campaigns. Some construction groups are on a pace to spend more than in 2002, the last mid-term elections.

Top Construction Industry Contributors

National Assn. of Home Builders $2,009,500 28% 72%
Associated Builders & Contractors 850,000 1 99
Associated General Contractors 746,350 12 87
Washington Group International 550,306 35 64
National Electrical Contractors Assn. 527,042 29 71
National Stone, Sand & Gravel Assn. 430,750 28 71
American Council of Engineering Cos. 417,823 17 83
Caterpillar Inc. 383,091 14 86
Parsons Corp. 372,550 51 48
Jacobs Engineering Group 300,036 55 45
source: Center for responsive politics
*Totals reflect federal election commission reports as of 9/11/06

Construction firms and associations contributed $38.8 million to federal candidates and political parties, based on Federal Election Commission filings through Sept. 11, says the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). The filings cover contributions through June. When final 2006 results are in, they may exceed construction's 2002 total of $45.7 million.

Top Recipients (Construction Industry)

Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) $849,200
Rick Santorum  (R-Pa.) 616,665
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) 456,501
James M. Talent (R-Mo.) 444,175
Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) 527,042
Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) 430,750
Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) 417,823
Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.) 383,091
George Allen (R-Va.) 372,550
John Ensign (R-Nev.) 300,036
source: Center for responsive politics
*Totals reflect federal election commission reports as of 9/11/06

So far, construction unions have contributed $11.5 million, compared with $21.4 million for the full 2002 cycle, according to CRP, which excludes the teamsters and electrical workers from its construction union category. Republicans have received 71% of 2006 construction industry spending; Democrats have gotten 84% of the unions' contributions.

The American Council of Engineering Companies has given $417,800 to federal campaigns this year, up 31% from its full 2002 total. "We have significantly increased our political program this cycle," says Steve Hall, vice president for government affairs. ACEC hiked Political Action Committee dollars and organized more fundraisers. Hall says that's "for the simple reason that the outcome of these elections will have a profound impact on whether we have a Congress that's friendly to infrastructure concerns and business interests or not…."

Top Construction Union Contributors

Operating Engineers $1,857,005 77% 22%
Laborers 1,816,500 85 14
Carpenters 1,776,890 68 30
Plumbers/Pipefitters 1,521,820 91 8
Sheet Metal Workers 1,378,000 95 4
Ironworkers 1,221,400 88 11
Painters 926,135 71 29
Bricklayers 750,125 98 2
AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Dept. 162,000 61 39
Asbestos Workers  57,640 96 4
source: Center for responsive politics
*Totals reflect federal election commission reports as of 9/11/06

The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association's $430,000 in contributions already tops its 2002 total by 6%. It will hit "about $650,000 by the time it's all over," says Charles E. Hawkins III, executive vice president. This year, 28% of NSSGA's spending has gone to Democrats, up from 10% in 2002. "You've got to dance with who brung you to the party, and we have a number of 'D's' who have supported us" on transportation and asbestos measures, Hawkins says.

Top Recipients (Construction Unions)
(Senate, except where noted)

Harold E. Ford, Jr. (D-Tenn.) $87,000
Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) 79,400
Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) 73,500
Bob Casey (D-Pa.) 71,000
John Salazar (D-Colo.) House 69,500
Leonard L. Boswell (D-Iowa) House 68,000
Tim Holden (D-Pa.) House 67,850
Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) House 67,450
Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) House 67,000
Chet Edwards (D-Texas) House 67,000
source: Center for responsive politics
*Totals reflect federal election commission reports as of 9/11/06

At the Associated General Contractors, Jeffrey Shoaf, senior executive director for government and public affairs, expects 2006 contributions to be about the same as 2002's $970,000. Says Shoaf: "We give in tight races. We give where our members and our chapters have a good relationship" with a candidate.

The Associated Builders & Contractors looks at contributing to incumbents and challengers, "because our main goal is to try to get as many free-enterprise, open-competition people in the House and Senate as we can," says Bill Spencer, vice president for government affairs.

The laborers' international union's 2006 contributions are expected to exceed $2.5 million, says Donald Kaniewski, legislative and political director. The union will give to 30 or more challengers this year, Kaniewski says. "There's a certain amount of venture capitalism here," he points out. He says that a challenger may not be running "as close as you might like him to be, but there's good cause to invest."