Republican leaders threatened a freeze-out of business lobbyists who dared hire a Democrat or ignored the names on the leadership’s private hiring tip sheet.
They also didn't like the shake-downs for bigger campaign contributions that happened every time important legislation came up for a vote in the GOP-led Congress.
Pay-to-play became the insider mantra during the Republican reign. But “extortion” was how many CEOs described the annual shakedowns by committee chairmen with jurisdiction over their industries. No group expressed greater relief — privately and publicly — than the business community when the 2002 McCain-Feingold law banning unlimited corporate donations to politicians became law.
The bullying Republican leadership didn't act any better toward their business friends than they treated their Democratic opponents, and business lobbies didn't like it.
Business leadership also had contempt for the incompetence and cronyism of the regulatory bodies they worked with, the free-spending ways of Republicans in Washington, and wanted health care reform the Republicans refused to deliver.
According to Daniel Gross, Republican business leaders are viewing Hillary Clinton rather than any of the Republican contenders as "the establishment candidate" in this election.
As happens every four years during the primary season, Republican business leaders are rallying around the establishment candidate. This time, however, it's a Democrat. Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer John Mack, who raised more than $200,000 for W's 2004 campaign, came out for Hillary this spring. James Robinson III, the Atlanta-born banker, former CEO of American Express, and co-founder of RRE Ventures, told me: "I've been a Republican all my life. I believe in fiscal conservatism and being a social moderate." But this Fed-Up CEO now makes the case for Hillary as effectively as James Carville. "It seems to me she's the person who has got the broadest experience. She understands the importance of business development, innovation, and entrepreneurship," he says.
It's unfortunate that Gross (who's a terrific business journalist) didn't follow up on the "social moderate" part of the quote from James Robinson. Big business has been far from heroic in its treatment of African-Americans, women, and gay people, but large-scale corporations like Disney have gradually begun to affirm the value of diversity as they've sought to appeal to gay, hispanic, African-American, and urban market niches. This has created a large cultural gulf between business and the diversity-hating religious right and is a major reason why
voters in the East making between $150,000 and $200,000 favored Democratic
candidates by a 63-37 majority.
Since 2004, the percentage of professionals identifying themselves as Republicans fell from 44 percent to 37 percent, according to a September Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.The movement of various segments of the big business sector toward the Democrats is far from being a comfortable thing for business. Given that the Democratic Party is also the home of the labor movement and anti-business reformers, it's possible to claim that there is neither a "party of big business" in the United States nor a reform party.
However, the Democrats might find themselves in a state of permanent triangulation if the Republicans continue reducing themselves to a fringe party of the declining farm belts, the old Confederacy, and all the bitter Clarence Thomas-like guys in the audiences of the radio talk shows and readership of the right-wing blogs.