Where are Pennsylvania’s candidates for governor getting their money?
In the GOP primary, Bill McSwain leans on rich donors, Dave White self-funds, Lou Barletta cruises, and Doug Mastriano leads with a shoestring budget.
There’s a lot of cash in Pennsylvania’s crowded Republican primary for governor.
But despite millions of dollars in super PAC money sloshing around and lots of big, politically-connected donors picking their favorite candidates, the gubernatorial hopeful who is leading in recent polls has raised relatively little money.
Doug Mastriano, a far-right state senator from Franklin County who has centered his campaign on his support for former President Donald Trump and his search for nonexistent widespread voter fraud, has parlayed his substantial online following and anti-establishment zeal into a narrow lead in polling of the cramped field.
He has also led some GOP operatives, who are nervous about his prospects in the general election, to attempt a last-minute consolidation of the field around a different candidate.
Here’s where Mastriano and the rest of the GOP pack have gotten their money — plus a look at the cash Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the only major candidate for the Democratic nomination, is bringing into the general election.
Much like Mastriano, Lou Barletta hasn’t raised a ton of money. The former Hazelton mayor and congressperson, who was an early, enthusiastic supporter of Trump, had a little more than $1 million to spend in the latest campaign finance filing period, which primarily covers April.
The Northeast Leadership Fund, a conservative PAC chaired by Luzerne County real estate developer Robert Tambur, gave Barletta $100,000 that month. He also relied on well-heeled friends and supporters who gave donations in the tens of thousands. One of the supporters who gave $10,000 was George Bochetto, the Philadelphia lawyer who has been running a long-shot campaign for U.S. Senate.
Barletta spent nearly $800,000 in April, mostly for mailers, consulting, internal polling, and several ad buys.
For a period of time, he did have some super PAC backing from the 1776 Project Committee, a dark money group that listed him among its supported candidates in February. Initially, the PAC primarily attacked former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain — but then appeared to change allegiances and began attacking Barletta.
Mastriano had about $1.2 million to work with in the last campaign finance period, though he brought in less than $200,000 during that actual time frame. Very little of that money came from PACs. His biggest donations were $15,000 from a Central Pennsylvania shed company and $25,000 from an Indiana horse breeder. The rest was primarily small contributions.
PACs are, however, spending against Mastriano. Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a conservative committee primarily bankrolled by Montgomery County billionaire and charter school advocate Jeff Yass, has paid for mailers calling Mastriano untrustworthy. The PAC is backing McSwain, who has also attacked Mastriano as too extreme to win a general election.
Mastriano reported spending less than $500,000 in the most recent reporting period. Most of the money went to campaign consulting and limited ad buys.
Bill McSwain has the deepest pockets of any GOP gubernatorial candidate, and it’s mostly because he has the support of one man: billionaire GOP donor Jeff Yass.
Yass, who routes his prodigious donations through a network of separate PACs, supports candidates who want to fund charter schools and give students publicly-funded scholarships to attend private schools. Via the PAC Commonwealth Children’s Choice Fund, he gave McSwain nearly $5 million in April alone.
McSwain had previously received nearly $6 million of in-kind contributions from a separate Yass-funded PAC, Commonwealth Leaders Fund — i.e. the PAC bankrolled ads, mailers, and other media on his behalf.
He spent more than $7 million in April, primarily on multi-million dollar ad buys.
Dave White is the biggest self-funder in the race. A former union steamfitter and Delaware County Council member who started his own HVAC company, White has bankrolled his gubernatorial bid to the tune of $5 million.
Unlike his fellow GOP candidates, he has considerable support from organized labor. White’s April report included $25,000 from a Philadelphia local of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and $10,000 from Pittsburgh’s Steamfitters Local 449, as well as $50,000 from a PAC advocating for transportation funding to support the construction industry.
White spent nearly $2.3 million in April, mostly on TV and digital ads.
Shapiro has coasted through his primary uncontested, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been raising money.
Big donations in the last reporting period included $500,000 from AFSCME’s political PAC, $50,000 from APSCUF, which represents faculty at Pennsylvania’s state universities, and $250,000 from SEIU. Tens of thousands more came from well-heeled individual Democratic donors.
Shapiro spent a little more than $3 million in April, wading into the ad wars that have characterized the GOP primary by making an ad buy comparing Mastriano to Trump. It was a buy that, to political analysts, appeared calculated to boost Mastriano in his primary in hopes that he will be a relatively weak candidate in November’s general election.
Shapiro ended the period with more than $16 million on hand — much more than any of the GOP candidates.
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