U.S. Race Costliest in History

WASHINGTON -- Corporate America is pouring money into the U.S. presidential campaign at an unprecedented rate, with a torrent of donations coming from the businesses behind the subprime mortgage crisis.

Facing a government crackdown over predatory lending and a troubled housing-finance system, Wall Street and the real estate industry were among the top political givers in 2007, a campaign finance watchdog said.

Leading all corporate donors in campaign donations as of the end of last year was investment banking giant Goldman Sachs, based on an analysis of Federal Election Commission records, the Center for Responsive Politics said Sunday.

The next four largest corporate donors were Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, according to the center's fourth-quarter preliminary analysis, which is subject to revision.

Investment banks, commercial banks and real estate companies altogether have pumped almost $34 million into the presidential race, with Democratic leaders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama getting the most money, the center said.

Overall, the 2008 presidential contest is shaping up, as expected, to be by far the costliest in U.S. history.

"From the beginning we've known this will be the most expensive race ever. ... Already the whole field has raised $582.5 million," said Massie Ritsch, spokesman for the watchdog.