July 05--A Birmingham life insurance corporation has contributed more than $600,000 to political campaigns at the state and federal level, mostly to incumbent candidates, according to public documents filed with the Alabama Secretary of State's office in Montgomery.
Protective Life Corporation donated more than a half million dollars to statewide political campaigns, rendering it one of the top corporate campaign donors, behind Drummond Company and Alabama Power. The insurance company has also donated nearly $90,000 to federal lawmakers over the current election cycle.
Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have received contributions from Protective Life, the company's donations most recently being made in the form of multiple $10,000 payments to political action committees established by the Montgomery lobbying firm Fine Geddie and Associates. According to political scientists, the company is trying to buy influence in Montgomery and Washington.
"There's something they're interested in," said Bill Stewart, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alabama. "What that is, I don't know. Somewhere down the road, there's going to come a bill or they will try to get passed or resist a bill and keep it from coming out of committee. The earlier you can get something started, the better."
Jess Brown, professor of political science at Athens State University, likened Protective Life's breadth of contributions to manuring a garden.
"You have to make sure you spread it around," Brown said. "Otherwise it will burn the ground and nothing would grow."
Of Fine Geddie and Associates' 11 political action committees, 10 are dedicated to supporting candidates with pro-industry and pro-development philosophies.
"We've always had 11 PACs," said Bob Geddie, founder of Fine Geddie and Associates. "The primary reason we haven't closed any out is because you can't transfer funds from one to another."
Geddie estimates that his company has represented Protective Life for 10 to 15 years. Multiple attempts to reach representatives of Protective Lifethis week were unsuccessful.
Brown said, however, that the explanation for multiple political action committees comes down to more than traditional practices.
"In Alabama, we allow lobbyists to create PACs and there's no limit on the number they can create," said Brown. "It's one of the many elements of Alabama campaign finance laws that allow you to partially camouflage campaign finance contributions."
In addition to Protective Life's political action committeedonations, the company has given $26,500 directly to Gov. Robert Bentley's campaign and $15,000 to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
"We all know that money is the mother's milk of politics," said Glen Browder, professor emeritus of American democracy and political science at Jacksonville State University. "What they do is they make sure that those candidates know who they are and if they ever need to talk with them about an issue, then they have to take that call."
On the federal level, Protective Life has donated to the campaigns of many members of Alabama's congressional delegation. It has also given money to members of the House Committee on Financial Services, including Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the committee's chair and Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., the chair of the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit subcommittee.
"The more money you've got and the more your destiny is impacted by the public policy process, then the more likely you are to be spreading a lot of money around," said Browder. "I am convinced that you cannot control money in politics. It's like water. Once the water starts coming, you can patch your basement all you want, but the water will still find a way in."
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