From airlines to unions, Democrat-leaning donors found largesse in Pelosi's pandemic plan

House Democrats’ coronavirus stimulus package includes billions for the U.S. airline industry, which has donated more than $11 million to the party and its candidates over the past four election cycles

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American Airlines flight
American Airlines flight
(Tom Pennington / Getty Images)
Updated: March 24, 2020 - 10:42pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The House Democrats’ coronavirus stimulus package includes billions of dollars in federal assistance to the U.S. airline industry, which has donated more than $11 million to the party and its candidates over the past four election cycles. Other Democratic-leaning industries similarly fared well.

The bill championed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls for $40 billion in grants to the airlines and their ground-support contractors, as much as $21 billion in loans to the airlines, $100 million in grants to maintain basic air service to small communities and $3 million for an Office of Airline Industry Financial Oversight "to keep airport workers safe and employed.” 

Companies such as American Airlines have grounded more than 50,000 flights due to the coronavirus outbreak. The industry was reportedly seeking $50 billion in federal assistance.

The House Democrats’ legislation would also provide $10 billion in grants for airports across the country and $1 billion “to eliminate high-polluting aircraft and $100 million in research into sustainable aviation fuels.” 

The airline industry has sent a total of almost $23 million to Democrats and Republicans running for election and reelection and to the parties' Political Action Committees (PACs) since the 2014 election cycle, including $10 million to the GOP. 

The original draft of the legislation also included perks for the green energy industry and labor unions, two more cash constituencies of Democrats.

In the 2018 election cycle, labor unions made $174 million in campaign contributions, which favored Democrats 86 percent to 14 percent for Republicans.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the $219.4 million in contributions made in the 2016 cycle favored Democrats 86 percent to 14 percent. The website is part of the non-partisan, nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, which compiles and analyzes federal campaign contributions and lobbying data.

In 2018, most of the $4.7 million in contributions from the alternative energy sector went to Democrats at 54 percent to 45 percent for Republicans. 

The majority of the $4.9 million in campaign donations from the alternative energy sector in 2016, 66 percent, went to Democrats.

In the 2018 cycle, total campaign contributions from airlines were $6.6 million and favored Democrats overall, 51 percent to 49 percent.

The top three donors were Delta Air Lines, which sent Republicans 54.7 percent of the total, compared to 44.4 percent for Democrats; American Airlines Group (48.8 percent for Democrats, 50.8 percent to Republicans); and United Continental Holdings (69.9 percent to Democrats, 29.6 percent to Republicans).

In the 2016 election cycle, total political contributions in the amount of $8 million from the airline industry favored Democrats overall, 54 percent to 46 percent.

The top donations came from American Airlines Group at (65.1 percent for Democrats and 34.7 percent to the GOP), Delta Air Lines (62.4 percent to Democrats, 35.9 percent to the GOP) and United Continental Holdings (44.7 percent for Democrats and 55.1 percent to the GOP).

In the 2014 election, total contributions of $3.7 million favored Republicans, 60 percent to 40 percent. The most contributions came from American Airlines Group (37.3 percent to Democrats, 62.6 percent for Republicans), Delta Air Lines (34.1 percent for Democrats, 65.7 percent to Republicans) and Airlines for America (25.5 percent to Democrats, 74.5 percent to Republicans).

Open Secrets data shows that total campaign contributions from the airline industry so far in the 2020 election cycle stand at $4.5 million, favoring Democrats over Republicans, 55 percent to 45 percent.

American Airlines Group, the second-highest contributor, gave 55.4 percent to Democrats and 44.4 percent to Republicans. United Airlines Holdings, the third highest, gave 70.7 percent of donations to Democrats and 29.3 percent to Republicans. Delta Air Lines, the top contributor, gave 45.3 percent to Democrats, compared to 54.6 percent to Republicans.

Open Secrets explains their methodology for the calculations as “based on contributions from donors (individuals as well as corporations and unions that give directly from their treasuries) to outside groups and from PACs (including super PACs) and individuals giving more than $200 to candidates and party committees.”

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