I’ve often said that everyone who cares about democracy should, at least once, spend an hour paging through the campaign finance report of a well-funded candidate for office in Pennsylvania.
There are no limits to contributions here, and when you see page after page of lawyers, lobbyists, insurance brokers, unions and others who have $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 to give to a political candidate, it’s kind of like watching ants devouring a grasshopper – awe-inspiring and creepy all at the same time.
The seven Democrats who filed reports for 2013 raised a collective $29.4 million last year, and incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett raised $6.8 million.
My able assistant Joshua Raifman and I spent some time combing over reports of Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates and compiled a list of every contributor who gave $25,000 or more in 2013 (it wasn’t easy – more on that soon). We found 118 donors who could afford $25,000 or more.
Four are candidates themselves: Businessman Tom Wolf chipped in $10 million for his campaign. State Treasurer Rob McCord loaned his campaign $1.7 million, former state Evironmental Secretary Katie McGinty kicked $235,000 into her campaign, and former state Environmental Secretary John Hanger loaned his campaign $750,000.
Among the largest contributions apart from candidates are the $1 million businessman Thomas Grumbacher gave Wolf, the $500,000 former Sallie Mae CEO and Penn State trustee candidate Al Lord gave McCord, and the $250,000 philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest gave Gov. Tom Corbett.
Exhibiting the kind of candor you only see in somebody who’s retired and mostly out of the political game, Lenfest acknowledged to the Inqurier’s Tom Fitzgerald that his quarter million dollar contribution to Corbett came out of gratitude for the state’s $30 million contribution to a museum he’s backing.
Other interesting items include the $400,000 that McCord’s brother, a philosophy professor, gave to the McCord campaign (half of it a loan, actually), and the $250,000 the state corrections officers union gave to McCord.
Among Democrats, Allyson Schwartz seems to have the broadest fundraising base among small donors, according to this chart compiled by election and campaign law specialist Adam Bonin (who is a Schwartz supporter).
Wolf gets the most from a narrow base. Besides his $10 million, he benefited from a handful of large contributions and many who bear the last name Wolf.
If you want to check out the donors in the $25,000 and over club, Josh and I prepared easy-to-read spreadsheets for each candidate.
Below is a chart of the ten largest contributions overall, excluding the candidates themselves.
|M. Thomas Grumbacher||York, PA||Retailer||The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc.||$1,000,000.00||Tom Wolf|
|Al Lord||Annapolis, MD||Businessman||Self||$500,000.00||Rob McCord|
|William Wolf||Mount Wolf, PA||Retired||Not Employed||$450,000.00||Tom Wolf|
|John M. Templeton, Jr. M.D.||Bryn Mawr, PA||President & CEO||John Templeton Foundation||$420,000.00||Tom Corbett|
|Geoff Sayre-McCord||Durham, NC||Professor||UNC/Chapel Hill||$400,000.00||Rob McCord|
|Bill Zimmerman||Peaks Island, ME||Retired||Not Employed||$300,000.00||Tom Wolf|
|Louis J. Appell Jr.||York, PA||Chairman||Susquehanna Real Estate||$275,000.00||Tom Wolf|
|State Corrections Officers Assn PAC||Harrisburg, PA||NA||NA||$250,000.00||Rob McCord|
|H. F. Lenfest||West Conshohocken, PA||Founder||The Lenfest Foundations||$250,000.00||Tom Corbett|
|Republican Governor’s Association PAC||Washington, D.C.||NA||NA||$210,028.00||Tom Corbett|
Tomorrow, we focus on how difficult it is to get information about Pennsylvania candidiates’ contributions, because Pennsylvania’s campaign finance reporting system is so antiquated.