While it was common for both major political parties to denounce large business corporations, this cartoon accurately portrays Democrats and Republicans both seeking contributions from the “trusts” for their respective campaigns in 1904.
In contrast to this image, however, the parties were not equally successful. Despite the financial support of businessmen Thomas Fortune Ryan, August Belmont Jr., and Henry G. Davis (the vice-presidential nominee), and a presidential nominee (Alton B. Parker) who was pro-business, the national Democratic campaign of 1904 collected less than a half-million dollars ($10 million in 2002 dollars). While that was comparable to totals in the 1896 and 1900 campaigns of Democrat William Jennings Bryan, who struck fear into the hearts of many businessmen, it was far below the $2.35 million ($46.3 million in 2002 dollars) raised by Democrats when conservative Grover Cleveland ran in 1892 and the $2.2 million ($44.1 million in 2002 dollars) that Republicans collected in 1904.
In the mid-summer of 1904, rumors began circulating among Democrats that Republican National Committee Chairman George Cortelyou was blackmailing corporation executives to contribute to the Roosevelt campaign or face antitrust lawsuits. The press began reporting the story in September, and Democratic nominee Parker repeated the rumors when he finally took to the stump in October. However, the charges were without substance and had little effect on the election outcome. In fact, some of the largest GOP donors that year were later prosecuted by the Roosevelt administration for antitrust violations.