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House GOP leaders reap donation bonanza

The new Republican leaders in the House have received millions of dollars in fresh contributions from banks, health insurers and other major business interests, which are pressing for broad reversals of Democratic policies aimed at corporations, according to disclosure records and interviews.

Much of that money flowed to the powerful GOP chairmen now overseeing banking, energy and other key committees, who will play a central role in setting the House agenda over the next two years.

The impetus behind such largesse is simple: Many companies and industry groups hope that House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republicans will succeed in rolling back Democratic policies they find objectionable, including environmental and Wall Street regulations.

GOP lawmakers took their first step in that direction Wednesday by voting to repeal President Obama's health care reform law. Major health care firms and their employees gave at least $5 million to key GOP leaders over the past two years, including well over $2 million to Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data.

The surge in Republican contributions underscores the extent of the business community's unhappiness with Democrats and Obama, who could face serious difficulties raising corporate donations for his 2012 re-election bid. The president has made efforts in recent months to improve relations with the business community, including hiring William Daley, a former commerce secretary and JPMorgan Chase executive, as his new chief of staff.

Cantor received at least $5.6 million from corporate-linked donors during the 2010 campaign, including $2.4 million from companies and employees in the finance, insurance and real estate industries, according to the Post analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The total marks a 40 percent increase from 2008 and puts Cantor well ahead of most of his House GOP colleagues. At his first press briefing earlier this month, Cantor signaled that business issues would be a key priority for the GOP majority, including attempts to roll back key Obama initiatives.

"We are going to be placing our marker down and insisting that our committees go about identifying and overseeing what the administration's regulatory agencies have been doing, in terms of their job-killing agenda," he said.

Banking, insurance and investment firms gave millions more to lawmakers heading key finance-related committees, including Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Appropriations head Hal Rogers, R-Ky. Financial Services chairman Spencer Bachus of Alabama -- who will oversee attempts to undo Obama's Wall Street reforms -- received more than $1.2 million from the banking sector, accounting for the vast majority of his total contributions in 2010, records show.

Ryan, who has emerged as the House Republicans' leading voice on budgetary issues, took in more than $1.4 million from banks, hedge funds, investment houses and other financial-services companies. Spokesman Conor Sweeney said Ryan "remains committed to the principles and reforms he's advocated since he first ran for office" in 1998.

The Public Campaign Action Fund, which favors public financing for campaigns, calculates that candidates supported by conservative "tea party" groups received more than $11 million in contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sector.

David Donnelly, the organization's national campaigns director, said such donations run counter to the populist sentiments of many tea-party voters.

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