By Jonathan Swan
Federal government employees are opening their wallets to help Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump on Nov. 8.
Of the roughly $2 million that federal workers from 14 agencies spent on presidential politics by the end of September, about $1.9 million, or 95 percent, went to the Democratic nominee’s campaign, according to an analysis by The Hill.Employees at all the agencies analyzed, without exception, are sending their campaign contributions overwhelmingly to Clinton over her Republican counterpart. Several agencies, such as the State Department, which Clinton once led, saw more than 99 percent of contributions going to Clinton.
Employees of the Department of Justice, which investigated Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State, gave Clinton 97 percent of their donations. Trump received $8,756 from DOJ employees compared with $286,797 for Clinton. From IRS employees, Clinton received 94 percent of donations.
Federal government employees overwhelmingly backed Clinton’s presidential campaign no matter which agency The Hill analyzed using Federal Election Commission data covering donors giving more than $200.
Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said these donation patterns are more evidence of the “rigged system” favoring establishment candidates like Clinton over outsiders like Trump. The Trump campaign has been citing lopsided media donations to Clinton — though there’s no evidence they’re coming from reporters covering Trump — as further evidence that the game is fixed.
But David Schultz, a Hamline University Professor of Political Science, said government employees have historically favored Democratic candidates over Republicans both in their voting habits and political contributions made in their personal time.
Under the Hatch Act, federal government employees are banned from engaging in political activities, including making campaign contributions, during work hours.
“Government employees are, on balance, more moderate or more liberal as opposed to the general population,” Schultz said. “Not across the board, but in general.”
Government employees are “more likely to believe in government as opposed to, let’s say, a privatization program,” he added, “programs that we would view as hostile to government.”
Republicans typically campaign on promises to slash government payrolls, which helps explain why recent GOP presidential candidates have received the smaller share of donations from government workers.
Yet while Republicans usually do worse than Democrats, Trump appears to be doing especially poorly in fundraising from government employees.
The 2012 GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, received 14 percent of donations from the same group of agencies surveyed for Trump. Trump received just 5 percent.
Romney got close to $300,000 more from these same departments’ employees than Trump has four years later. Comparisons to previous presidential candidates are of limited value, since they took public funding for their general election campaigns.
Trump might have had a chance to do better than Romney. He discarded much of Republican orthodoxy during his primary campaign, which could have led some federal employees to believe that he’d be more amenable to big government. He vowed, for example, to leave massive social welfare programs virtually untouched.
But Trump also constantly attacked federal institutions. During his primary campaign, he described the federal government as a corrupt, bloated body run by “very, very, stupid people.”
Trump vowed “tremendous cutting” of the government in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in January and singled out the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency as agencies he’d slash dramatically if not outright eliminate.
Agency employees have likely taken note of Trump’s hostile rhetoric. In the Department of Education’s case, that included Trump’s pledges to hand over control to the states and to fight tooth and nail against Common Core standards.
From Department of Education employees this cycle, Trump received three donations totaling $220. Clinton received 724 donations for more than $74,000. In all, she received 99.7 percent of donations from employees of the department.
Donations from the State Department, which Clinton ran from 2009 to 2013, were even more slanted in her favor. State Department employees gave Trump 39 donations, for $4,652. Over the same time period, they gave their former boss 2,518 donations, for $425,525.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has portrayed himself as a strongman who would toughen up America’s defenses — both militarily and at the border — and who would take care of veterans. It’s probably no coincidence, therefore, that Trump performed best in donations among employees of three agencies: Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.
But even employees of these more Trump-friendly agencies have overwhelmingly contributed to Clinton’s campaign. From Defense employees, Trump received 341 donations for $43,575. Clinton got 2,392 donations for $225,560, giving her 84 percent of the money. From Homeland Security employees, Clinton got 90 percent of the donations, and from Veterans Affairs she took 88 percent.
Romney performed significantly better than Trump with employees at all three agencies, receiving, for example, $98,153 from Defense employees, which amounted 21 percent of donations.
During the Republican primaries, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said, “Let’s create a little bit of a recession in Washington, D.C., so that we can have economic prosperity outside of Washington.” Fear of such plans might be the truest explanation of these uniformly lopsided donations.
Schultz, the Hamline professor, said “self-preservation”— particularly for workers engaged in public sector unions — probably motivates their political giving.
“This means support for their jobs,” he said. “Clinton, for the most part, is going to be probably a continuation of more or less what Obama is.”
Federal government employees, he said, are likely “more willing to give to somebody who would be more predictable in terms of supporting their livelihood, their jobs, as opposed to somebody who might be less predictable.”