The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Stabenow and bankruptcy - some back-story

Contemplating on March 8 the bastardy of the Foreclosure Fourteen - the Dem senators who voted for cloture on S 256, I said
The outstanding case is that of Stabenow - of continuing senators, the 16th most liberal according to her DW-NOMINATE 1st dimension ranking.

Now, for all that DW-NOMINATE is the most advanced ranking system available (or so I've read), the present case shows its limitations [1].

I've touched on the history of S256 and its predecessor bills in looking at the Schumer amendment (March 8). I think it's well known that the credit card industry, amongst others, has been trying for several Congresses to get a bill passed, and, until the 109th, had failed.

It seems that Ms Deborah Ann Stabenow, Representative (105th-106th Congresses) and Senator (107th-date) from Michigan, has something of a rap-sheet.

One might hypothesise thus: Michigan is the automotive industry; cars sell on credit; car-makers' credit subsidiaries lend billions, and want as close to their pound of flesh as may be from those who buy cars on the never-never. So they pay Stabenow to do their bidding.

But the facts, so far (not far!) as I've been able to get hold of them, are not so simple.

According to Open Secrets, Stabenow raised around $8m for her Senate race in 2000, of which $1m or so was PAC money and $3.5m from small individual contributions. A list of the top industries contributing shows Women's Issues at the top ($779,000), Industrial Unions in 12th spot ($84,000) and Automotive in 14th ($80,000).

The sectoral analysis shows $98,000 from Transportation - $13,000 identified as from Air Transport plus $5,000 not further analysed. The three largest amounts under the Automotive head are identified as coming from General Motors ($15,000), Star Lincoln-Mercury ($14,000) and Ford ($12,000).

Total Automotive as percentage of total contributions: 0.97%.

In addition, Finance, Insurance and Real Estate contributed $254,000. But of that, contributors from Commercial Banks gave $17,000, and those from Finance/Credit Companies $2,000.

Neither the Ford Motor Credit Corporation nor the General Motors Acceptance Corporation saw fit to round up donations for Stabenow for her 2000 campaign.

So, where's the beef? Stabenow is supposed, according to the hypothesis, to owe her soul to the company store - the FMC or GMC store, that is. And these fine companies did virtually squat for her.

But if - in a Kennedy-esque [2] chiasmus - I ask not what they did for her, but what she did for them, one hits paydirt almost immediately.

Pretty much straight after taking her Senate oath, Stabenow had an opportunity to prove her loyalty to her non-paymasters: HR 333 was the bill, introduced in the House on January 31 2001 (the Shylocks not letting the grass grow), passed the House on March 1.

Meanwhile, the Senate proceeded with S 420.

Several amendments to S 420 were put to roll call votes: reference to this list of Stabenow's 107th 1st Session RCVs [3] shows her voting against her party in five of them.

After HR 333 arrived in the Senate, cloture was passed (RC 230) 88-10 on July 12.

Leahy then proposed an amendment to substitute the text of S420 on which there was a successful cloture (RC 234), again passed 88-10.

Stabenow voted in line with her party for the rest of the RCVs on HR 333 , which passed the Senate (RC 236) 82-16. (The Schumer amendment (SA 61) passed on RC 61.)

Now, HR 333 is not much of a test of Stabenow's soundness: the Senate sent it back to the House with Schumer's poison pill, so they knew it was a dead duck. Voting on RC 236 was for show, rather than for blow.

The five amendments on which she voted 'against her party' seem to be Stabenow showing a bit of leg to the credit industries. But that's about it.

Stabenow has, so far as I'm aware, had no opportunity between HR 333 and S 256 to record a vote on a bankruptcy bill (see my Schumer amendment piece). As far as industry scoring, all I have is the ABA's, based on all of three 2003 votes. Stabenow voted with the ABA on two out of three. None of them resemble the issues raised by S 256.

So, what do we have so far? Until the S 256 cloture vote, Stabenow had received small amounts of campaign contribution from the motor and finance industries, and (in the form of the five S 420 amendments) had done a small amount for them.

And then, suddenly, the huge cloture vote.

We have squat.

Test it another way: Stabenow's Michigan colleague, Carl Levin, is presumably under the same electoral pressures (his seat is up two years after Stabenow's, in 2008). Contributions during the 2002 cycle included $122,000 automotive and $403,000 finance/insurance/real estate [4].

Yet, somehow, Levin managed to vote his conscience - or, cutting the melodrama, managed not to vote for cloture on a horrible bill.

So - I feel there is a story (as opposed to idle speculation) in Stabenow and bankruptcy, but it may require actual journalism to get at it. At which point, I would have to bow out...

  1. I'm not suggesting its authors claim more for it that it can deliver.

  2. Or Sorensen-esque - can't be bothered to sort it out right now.

  3. At, the guy has very helpfully provided lists of Congressional roll calls back to the 101st Congress with links to the material on THOMAS (the 101st is the first Congress for which THOMAS provides the full range of pages). And he's marked those votes cast against a majority of the member's party. A very useful facility I wish I'd known about a long time ago!

  4. No further breakdown seems to be available on the site.

    There is another page dated May 23 2002 which lists Soft Money, PAC & Individual Contributions by Members of the Coalition for Responsible Bankruptcy Laws, 2001-02 - and the top ten Senate recipients: Stabenow is #3, with $30,000; Levin comes top, with $74,000.

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