NU Online News Service

WASHINGTON –The insurance industry’s largest political contributions to the presidential race are going to Democratic candidates, with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton the biggest recipient.

According to the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics, a bipartisan watchdog group, through January Sen. Clinton raised $781,361 in insurance industry contributions. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who has won more delegates for the Democratic National Convention, received $594,760 through January.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive Republican nominee, has raised $381,482 from the insurance industry during the comparable period, according to the CRP Web site,

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who heads the Senate Banking Committee, which has primary oversight over insurance regulatory issues, dropped out of the race in January.

Mr. Dodd was the leader through January in contributions from the insurance industry, with donations of $798,612.

Counting contributions from individuals and businesses from all sectors, Sen. Obama leads as a political fundraiser, according to the CRP Web site, amassing $113.3 million through January, the latest numbers available.

Sen. Clinton is second for the remaining candidates, with $105.4 million in donations, and Sen. McCain third, with $48.5 million in donations.

The total numbers are for the 2007-2008 election cycle.

Of the candidates who have left the race, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, was the leading fundraiser, amassing $105.1 million before departing the race. Rudy Giuliani raised $64 million before leaving the race, and John Edwards, former senator from North Carolina, $47.8 million.

According to CRP, as a group the candidates raised more than half a billion dollars in 2007. “By some predictions, the eventual nominees will need to raise $500 million apiece to compete–a record sum,” CRP says on its Web site.

Ben McKay, senior vice president, federal relations, for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said it is likely that Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama hold the lead over Sen. McCain in campaign contributions because of where they are based.

“It could be just geographic,” Mr. McKay said. “Arizona is not a big insurance hub, and people tend to support their local member.”

Mr. McKay noted that Sen. Clinton’s home state of New York and the abutting jurisdictions of New Jersey and Connecticut are big insurance venues, as is Illinois.

He pointed out that none of the contending senators are on the Banking Committee, which has primary oversight of insurance matters, and none are on the Judiciary Committee.

“Their immediate impact on insurance issues, he said, would only be on floor votes,” he explained.

It is possible, he suggested, that Senator Clinton and Senator Obama could receive some largesse from health insurers, since both of their plans call for use of the private market.