Much is at stake as the Nov. 8 midterm election looms, with political contributions to candidates reaching record highs this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
By early October, overall political donations had exceeded $1 billion, surpassing the approximately $702 million spent by the same time in the 2018 midterm vote.
Construction industry contributors are following that trend—with corporate donations as of Oct. 16 surpassing $105 million, compared with $90 million by the end of the 2018 cycle. Construction unions also are increasing their contributions and already have outpaced their spending the the last midterm cycle, having raised $59 million as of Oct. 16, up from $49 million in 2018
The American Council of Engineering Cos. moved to the top of the list of industry donors to political candidates and parties, with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) moving down on the list. NAHB has contributed $1.4 million thus far in 2022, significantly below its $2.4 million in candidate and party donations four years ago.
ACEC donated $1.7 million in 2018, and is on track to meet or exceed that this year, says Steve Hall, ACEC senior vice president for advocacy. The group typically splits donations between Democrats and Republicans, with a slight tilt toward the GOP—but this year, donations to Democratic candidates increased by 6.5%.
Besides contributing to key committee chairs and other leaders in both chambers, ACEC members "are particularly interested in those center-right Republicans and center-left Democrats who are the reasonable ones who want to work together and are open to compromise,” says Hall. “We purposefully try to maintain balance."
He says ACEC "needs to build long-term relationships with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and to do that, you really need to maintain some balance and continue to support even the minority party because it may very well be that it will be the majority party in a very short period of time.”
Jimmy Christianson, Associated General Contractors of America’s vice president for government relations, says its political action committee has raised, so far, the second-largest amount ever for an election cycle—$1.1 million. AGC has contributed $691,000 to political candidates and parties.
AGC tends to lean more toward GOP candidates. This year the split is 92% Republican, 8% Democrat; in the 2018 cycle, contributions were 95% to Republicans and 5% to Democrats.
Apart from contributions to individual campaigns, AGC plans to spend about $200,000 this cycle for “independent expenditures” that include targeted digital advertising to support the election of specific candidates. “It’s not completely new [for AGC], but we haven’t done it in a long time.” Christianson says.
Unlike other groups, which tend to split their funding, the Associated Builders and Contractors sends 100% of its donations to Republican political candidates, says Kristin Swearingen, vice president of government affairs. Thus far, ABC has donated about $1.6 million and is on track to surpass the $1.8 million raised in 2018.
Swearingen says ABC has “a very politically engaged membership,” but the possibility of flipping both the House and Senate at a time of high inflation has increased member firm donations and level of engagement.
“Our members are engaged in every state” to elect enough Republicans “who support free enterprise and business” to potentially gain majorities in both chambers, she says..
Construction labor unions typically donate more to Democratic candidates but most make a practice of contributing also to Republicans. Eric Dean, general president of the Ironworkers' union, says, “We have friends on both sides of the aisle.”
Dean notes that the union distributes political contributions based on polling and preferences of individual members who make the contributions. “We have both Democratic and Republican members,” he says. In the 2022 cycle, 75.4% of $812,000 that the Ironworkers gave to political candidates and parties has gone to Democrats, with 24.6% to Republicans.
The top union donors in 2022 are the Carpenters, Laborers and Operating Engineers, who also were the top three in 2018.