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Tech Backed Kerry in 2004

The tech industry shifted political gears in 2004 and put its money behind Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry after backing Republican George Bush over Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 elections.

According to numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, the tech industry donated $2.6 million to Kerry in the recent elections while contributing $1.9 million to Bush. In 2000, tech contributed $1.2 million to Bush and $599,000 to Gore.

Despite the increase in presidential campaign contributions, the industry's political donations declined 13.5 percent from $39.3 million in 2000 to $25.8 million in 2004.

"That was common with a lot of industries because of changes in campaign contribution laws," Steve Weiss, the communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, said, referring to the 2004 ban on soft money donations. "It was tough to exceed or match the soft money given in 2000."

Top 5 Computer/Internet Contributors
Microsoft $3 million
Cisco $1 million
IBM $665,993
Intel $582,546
Dell $424,556
Source: Center for Responsive Politics

The center compiles the numbers from Federal Election Commission filings, and they reflect the political contributions of a company's political action committee and its individual employees.

In addition to reporting contributions given to the presidential candidates, it collects data about the sums donated to the candidates from specific companies.

Microsoft led the list with $3 million in donations to national candidates. Of that $3 million, approximately 60 percent went to Democrats.

Cisco with $1 million, IBM with $665,993, Intel with $582,546 and Dell with $424,556 rounded out the top-five list in contributions to candidates.

Of the top five tech contributors, only Dell , at 77 percent, went Republican.

Of the top 20 tech contributors in 2004, 11 favored Democrats and 9 backed Republicans.

"One reason may be that so many tech companies are in California, which tends to vote Democrat," Weiss said. "But the computer industry gives to both sides. There are both conservative and liberal factions in the industry."

The most Democratic donor in 2004 was Google , with 98 percent of its $207,000 in contributions going to Democrats.

Communications Sector Contributors

Other tech companies strongly favoring Democrats were Sun, with 73 percent of $237,000; IBM, with 69 percent of $665,000; and Gateway, with 65 percent of $235,000.

Top Republican contributors included EMC, which donated 83 percent of its $300,000 contribution to the right; Dell, with 77 percent of $420,000; Siebel, with 64 percent of $335,000; and Unisys, with 64 percent of $215,000.

Weiss said the overall decline in tech political contributions from 2000 to 2004 could be attributed to the economy.

Tech's $39.3 million in contributions in 2000 ranked eighth nationally. The 2004 donations of $25.8 million ranked 13th in the country.

"Back in 2000, we thought tech was moving up to maybe even the top five contributors," Weiss said. "Then the bottom fell out. The big players in tech continued to give, but a lot of smaller players were no longer there."

Tech's peak in 2000 donations marked a dramatic leap for the industry. In the 1996 national elections, tech gave $9.4 million and ranked 31st. In 1992, the industry contributed $1.6 million and ranked 53rd.

"Back then tech didnt think it needed to be involved in Washington," Weiss said. "It has come to realize the growing number of ways Congress can mess with the industry."

The trend is also reflected in the overall communications sector compiled by the center. In addition to tech, the communications sector includes printing and publishing; television, music and movies; telephone utilities; and telecom services and equipment.

In 1990, the sector contributed $17 million to national campaigns. In 1994, the number climbed to $30 million and in 2000 contributions hit $133 million. In 2004, donations fell off to $88 million, again reflecting the ban on soft money.

Presidential Contributions
Industry Bush Kerry
Computers/Internet $1.9 million $2.6 million
TV/Music/Movies $1.3 million $3.1 million
Printing & Publishing $915,616 $2.7 million
Telephone Utilities $517,575 $206,385
Telecom Services/Equipment $365,124 $339,561
Source: Center for Responsive Politics

In 2004, Hollywood led all contributors in the sector with $28.8 million in contributions with tech closely following at $25.8 million. Printing and publishing finished third in the sector at $16.5 million, followed by telephone utilities with $8.6 million and telecom services and equipment at $8.1 million.

Of the five sectors in the communications industry, Hollywood, publishers, and telecom equipment makers joined tech in giving the majority of their donations to Kerry.

Hollywood topped the list in overall contributions to the 2004 presidential election, with a total of $4.5 million; $3.1 million of it went to the Kerry campaign, and the remaining $1.3 million went to Bush.

The telecom industry gave the majority of its overall contributions to Bush.

Specifically, telephone utilities gave $517,000 of its overall contribution of 724,000 to Bush.

The telecom services and equipment sector, though, was split in half. It contributed $365,000 to Bush and $340,000.