As presidential and congressional campaigns head toward the Nov. 6 finish line, construction industry companies, associations and labor unions have pushed their campaign contributions to new highs. Even before final totals are in, they have surpassed the records set in 2008, the last presidential election cycle.
Despite construction's still-tough market conditions, construction organizations and firms had contributed $101.1 million to federal candidates as of Oct. 25, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). The total for the full 2008 cycle was $94.9 million. In addition, construction labor unions had contributed $22 million, up from $20.8 million four years earlier.
Construction industry spending has long favored Republicans, and this cycle is no exception: 72% of the industry's overall campaign dollars are going to the GOP, up from 63% in 2008. The pattern is similar in the presidential race: The industry has given the Republican nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, $8.1 million and contributed $3.8 million to President Barack Obama.
For its part, organized labor continues to lean strongly toward Democrats, with the building trades allocating 88% of their campaign dollars this cycle to that party, down from 91% in 2008.
Some construction organizations have increased donations to their political action committees (PACs) from members and raised PAC contributions to candidates. The National Electrical Contractors Association posted one of the strongest gains. By Oct. 1, it already had spent more than $1 million, up 48% from its total for the full 2008 cycle.
Marco Giamberardino, NECA executive director for government affairs, says the association's final 2012 amount could be about $1.3 million. "We are very fortunate to have a great amount of buy-in from our members," Giamberardino says. He notes that about 25% of NECA's members take part in its PAC, which he says is well above the participation level for most trade associations.
The Associated Builders and Contractors expects to raise about $1.8 million in the current election cycle and contribute about $1.7 million to candidates, says Chris Singerling, ABC senior director of political affairs. Its 2008 contributions were slightly less than $1.6 million.
The American Council of Engineering Companies expects to top its 2008 spending of about $987,000. ACEC's final 2012 total "should be well in excess of a million dollars," says Steve Hall, vice president for government affairs.
For the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, 2011 and 2012 have been the strongest political fundraising years ever, with receipts of $467,000 last year and $456,000 so far this year, says Jim Riley, NSSGA director of government affairs. Its contributions this cycle will be even with 2008's $797,000, or down slightly, he says, noting that NSSGA may make some contributions later, to candidates that face recounts or seek to retire campaign debt.
But at the National Association of Home Builders, contributions totaled $1.2 million as of Oct. 25, a large drop from a final 2008 total of $2.7 million, according to CRP figures. NAHB declined an ENR interview request.