Playing Both Sides

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The Wall Street Journal comments today on the trend for corporations to "play the field" in presidential politics giving money to multiple candidates on both Democratic and Republican sides to shore up their fortunes for when the next administration comes to town.

Time Warner, Goldman Sachs, and Comcast get called out specifically for the money they're throwing around but the practice is common to large corporations who have much to gain, and much to lose depending on how the elections shakes out.

Are we right to look at this practice just a bit askance, since ideology is clearing taking a backseat to campaign contributions that will score political influence -- or at least avoid making enemies.


"We give to both sides," says Comcast spokeswoman D'Arcy Rudnay. "You have to. There are lots of people here behind different candidates." Ms. Rudnay sees that as a sign of Comcast's diverse culture.

So what's going on? A jaded interpretation would be that many corporate executives aren't deeply committed to any candidate. Instead, they just want to befriend or mollify whoever wins the presidency in November's election.

Jaded, eh? Well, one man's jaded is another man's pragmatic:


Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, has been making that argument for years. "The ideology of business is pragmatism," he says. "Executives wouldn't be successful people if they didn't function that way."

Mr. Sabato notes the biggest presidential fund-raisers so far have been two Democrats: Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. Business backers may think of themselves as siding with Republicans most of the time, he says. But if executives think a Democratic victory is likely in 2008, he adds, they have started writing checks accordingly.

And so the powerful pay-to-play goes on, and Goldman Sachs, Comcast and their ilk will continue to play their part. What of the rest of us who haven't got thousands to spread among the top tier candidates?