NY Hearts Rep Tom Reynolds

by Jiji Lee

He's considered the most influential New York politician in Congress. So it's no surprise that Rep Thomas Reynolds (R-26) has received over $51,000 from the State of New York--making the Republican governed state one of his top campaign contributors since 1998.

As member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee (which is neither about ways nor means ... discuss!),  Reynolds oversees taxation issues on economic policy, trade, social security, and welfare.

His other top backers include Constellation Brands (an alcohol beverage company), Harris Beach LLP, and the National Beer Wholesalers Assocation. Apart from liking booze, why would the State of New York have vested interests in Reynolds? Two words: Jobs. Taxes.

In a recent interview on Hardball, Reynolds emphasized that he's determined to address his district's concerns on jobs and taxes. That could explain why he's a proponent of the U.S. Trade Rights Enforcement Act which would impose duties on Chinese products and closely monitor trade practices. This would benefit auto manufacturers in New York like Delphi that have been struggling against Chinese competition.

Opponent Jack Davis has called Reynolds out on his flip flopping free trade stance. Reynolds voted yes on free trade agreements with Australia, Chile, and Singapore in the past. So, why the change of heart?

It seems that the western New York area has been bemoaning the decline of Delphi's automotive plant in Buffalo. The auto parts maker has filed for bankruptcy amidst the crippling foreign competition. To boot, about 9,000 constiutents are members of the auto industry in this area.

With Davis on Reynolds' heels, chances are the incumbent candidate is strategizing to make his domestic businesses and the residents of New York happy.

His other top contributor Constellation Brand is one of the largest U.S. wine companies, and is a financial artery for the city of Canandaigua. Back in 2001, Reynolds helped secure $750,000 worth of funding for the area. According to Opensecrets.org , Constellation has contributed a total of $52,000 during Reynolds's congressional career. 

Harris Beach LLP, which has contributed $12,700 for the 2005-2006 cycle, is a member of the Buffalo Lakefront Development team. If successful, this project could attract enormous economic benefits for Buffalo and make up for the heat Reynolds received for Delphi's decline.

It appears that campaign donors don't mind the flip flopping so long as Reynolds shows 'em the money. When Davis criticized Reynolds's free trade record in 2004, Reynolds defended his Australia free trade vote by arguing that the agreement increased New York exports to Australia by 7 percent.

Time will tell if Reynolds can similarly turn his Chinese trade agreement to gold.