Who’s transportation backing? Dems are early favorites

But Trump and the GOP have a sizable edge when it comes to business and PAC donations

While transportation sector donors in the 2020 election season are overwhelmingly supporting Democratic candidates on the whole, President Donald Trump in particular continues to hold a huge advantage over Democratic nominee Joe Biden, according to the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance reports.

Trump has received $5,220,477 in campaign contributions from those employed in, or connected to, transportation companies, versus Biden’s $1,875,121 raised to date.

But looking at transportation sector campaign contributions overall, donors have directed 59.6% of all contributions to Democratic candidates to just 40.4% for Republicans. Overall, nearly $13 million has been contributed this election cycle by transportation professionals, with Democratic candidates receiving $7.7 million and Republicans receiving $5.3 million.

In terms of broader funding, however, Trump has raised over $414 million in candidate committee money and been supported by over $90 million in outside money. Biden has raised $321 million and is being buoyed by $148 million in outside money.

The Center for Responsive Politics reports the campaign contributions based on FEC data collected at each federally mandated reporting date. When contributions are made, donors, including political action committees (PACs) and individual donors, are categorized based on the donor’s occupation or employer. The data shows that individual donors are more likely to contribute to Democratic candidates, while businesses and PACs favor Republican candidates.

The latest numbers are as of the last reporting cycle, which ended on Aug. 20.

Dems get sector love

Even at 59.6%, the transportation sector lags other sectors in terms of Democratic support. Labor is leaning almost entirely Democratic, with 98.5% of contributions going to Democratic candidates, although the sector has only contributed $9 million at this point. The finance/insurance/real estate sector has contributed $152.9 million, with 71.7% going to Democrats.

Other sectors that have spent heavily include communications and electronics ($65.3 million, 93.4% Democratic), construction ($19 million, 56.5% Democratic) health ($59.9 million, 78.8% Democratic), lawyers and lobbyists ($41.8 million, 90.9% Democratic), and agribusiness ($13.3 million, 50.4% Republican).

Miscellaneous businesses have contributed $81.7 million, with 71% of all contributions heading to Democrats, and those who associate with an ideology or are single-issue voters are more heavily Democratic. Those donors have contributed $210.3 million, with Democratic candidates receiving 85.1% of the cash.

While Democratic candidates are getting the majority of donations to date, the data suggests there is a disconnect between those employed in the transportation sector and those who own transportation-sector businesses. Large transportation companies and PACs are donating in large numbers to Republican candidates, suggesting much of the Democratic support is small donors so far.

Trucking loves Trump

As of the Aug. 20 reporting deadline, trucking interests had contributed $939,483 to Trump’s reelection campaign, nearly double ($477,734) what had been reported at the July 24 reporting deadline. Biden had seen just $70,991 in contributions. In all, trucking interests had directed 69.5% of all contributions to Republican candidates.

Transportation unions, though, have heavily leaned Democratic, with Biden receiving $245,029 of the total $331,904 reported through Aug. 20. Trump has received just $12,158 in contributions. The D.R.I.V.E. PAC (Democrat, Republican, Independent Voter Education), the primary PAC of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, has led the way, raising $12,234,358 in the 2020 election cycle and having spent $9,453,374 to date. Overwhelmingly, the PAC is donating to Democratic candidates — 98% of donation dollars for federal elections have gone to Democrats so far. The Center for Responsive Politics has recorded $1,060,305 given to U.S. House candidates, but only $20,500 of that has gone to Republicans. Senate candidates have received $96,500 to date.

The group has contributed $100,000 or more to the House Majority PAC, Senate Majority PAC, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Priorities USA Action, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and DNC Services Corp, which is the primary Democratic PAC.

In the 2016 election cycle, D.R.I.V.E. spent $16,268,401 on the race, with 92% going to Democratic candidates.

PACs favor Republicans

Within the transportation sector as a whole, PACs had contributed $18,706,530 as of the Aug. 20 reporting date. Democrats have received $7,752,681 to date, for 41% of the total. Republicans have garnered $10,938,849. A total of 152 transportation PACs have reported making contributions.

Air transport PACs have been by far the largest supporters of candidates, with 56% of their contributions going to Republicans. The air transport sector has contributed $7,476,476 to date. Automotive interests are also leaning heavily Republican as is trucking. Automotive has contributed $5,448,503, with 62% going to Republicans, and trucking has donated $1,117,700, with 65% going to Republicans.

Railroads are also supporting Republicans by large margins, with 57% of the $2,956,405 contributed so far going to GOP candidates. Sea transport has contributed a little over $1 million to date ($1,054,937), with 60% going to Republicans.

Among individual trucking PACs, the American Trucking Associations has contributed the most so far at $364,500, with $185,500 heading to the GOP and $179,000 going to Democrats. Oshkosh Corp. has given $203,500, with $142,500 heading into Republican coffers. The Transportation Intermediaries Association has contributed $134,000 while the National Tank Truck Carriers ($126,500), Schneider National ($100,500), Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association ($84,500), and Truck Renting & Leasing Association ($46,500) have also been top donors.

Werner Enterprises ($43,500), Old Dominion Freight Line ($40,000), Ryder System ($9,000), Penske Truck Leasing ($5,000) and Ruan Companies ($5,000) are other carriers that have filed with the FEC. Truck makers Paccar ($26,200), Navistar International ($16,500) and Daimler Trucks North America ($2,500) have contributed as well.

On the air side, UPS ($1,377,726), Boeing ($1,169,500), Delta Air Lines ($825,500) and FedEx Corp. ($767,500) are the big contributors.

Rail contributions have been dominated by the Big Four railroads, led by BNSF with $804,571 contributed to date. Union Pacific is next at $673,487, followed by Norfolk Southern at $459,000 and CSX Corp. at $398,000.

The maritime operators are also heavily supporting Republicans, although individual businesses and associations are not spending as much as businesses in other modes. American Waterways Operators leads the way with $151,000 contributed to date, but Crowley Maritime is the only other PAC that has contributed more than $100,000, with $117,000 so far.

Correction: This article has been updated with up-to-date donation spending for the American Trucking Associations.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

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The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes FedEx (No. 1), UPS (No. 2), Schneider (No. 7), Old Dominion Freight Line (No. 9), Werner Enterprises (No. 10), Ryder System (No. 22), Ruan (No. 32) and Crowley (No. 204).

One Comment

  1. The guys that actually move the loads – Trump
    Guys who middleman and profit w/o overhead and gouge rates, saying rates are low during Covid-19 – Biden

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at