WASHINGTON — Financial giants and other large firms now being bailed out by the government spent millions underwriting the Democratic and Republican conventions last summer, just weeks before coming to Washington seeking multibillion-dollar handouts.
The big donors included AIG, Ford Motor Co., Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Freddie Mac.
In all, major corporations, labor unions and individual millionaires poured $118 million into the nominating conventions for Barack Obama and John McCain, according to reports from the Campaign Finance Institute and the Center for Responsive Politics. The nonpartisan private groups compiled the numbers from filings required under federal law.
Wall Street financial institutions were by no means the largest donors.
In mid-August, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian of Beverly Hills, an investor in Ford Motor Co., sent $2 million to the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., and $1.5 million to the Democratic convention in Denver.
"This man had a major investment in a troubled industry and had good reason to want to get political support," said Steve Weissman, associate director for policy at the Campaign Finance Institute.
Ford spent $100,000 on each of the conventions. It has requested a $9-billion standby line of credit in case a competitor fails.
Another potential bailout recipient, General Motors Corp., lent hundreds of new cars to the convention committees.
Also getting in on the act were operators of hedge funds, a large part of the financial services industry that hopes to remain as free from regulation as possible.
Raymond Dalio, chairman of Bridgewater Associates in Westport, Conn., a hedge fund manager, gave $2 million for the Republican convention. The Democratic convention received $500,000 from James Chanos of Kynikos Associates in New York. In all, major hedge fund operators gave nearly $4 million -- $2.7 million of which went to the GOP.
Private financing of the national political conventions is among the last avenues for corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to curry favor through big-bucks contributions. Congress banned the giving of six- and seven-figure donations to the political parties, offerings known as "soft money," in 2002.
Together, donors spent $61 million on the Democratic convention and $57 million on the GOP convention.
Among the corporate contributors:
* American International Group Inc. gave $1.5 million, split between the Democratic convention and the Republican convention. The government now is providing AIG a $150-billion rescue package.
* Citigroup, which is receiving tens of billions of dollars in bailout funds, spent $600,000, including $350,000 for the Republican convention.
* Goldman Sachs, the recipient of $10 billion in bailout money, spent $505,000 on the political conventions, including $255,000 for the Republican gathering.
Some donors got their checks in early, like AIG, which donated $750,000 for the Republican convention more than a year ago. Morgan Stanley, on the other hand, sent $100,000 to the Democrats in April and $50,000 more on Sept. 10.
The corporate donors also include Freddie Mac, the mortgage housing giant that the government took over in September along with its sister company, Fannie Mae. Freddie Mac gave $250,000 for each convention a year ago. The company is asking for an injection of $13.8 billion in aid after posting a huge quarterly loss.
Some of the biggest convention contributors gave to both parties: Minneapolis-based Target Corp. spent $3 million on the Republican convention in nearby St. Paul and $400,000 on the Democratic; Denver-based Qwest Communications spent $2.9 million on the Republicans and $841,000 for the Democrats; and Best Buy Co. in Richfield, Minn., gave $2.3 million to the GOP and $299,000 for the Democrats.