Retirees are active in races
With another campaign season in full swing, where does the money to finance a bid for a Congressional seat come from?
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, congressional and presidential races have skyrocketed in cost in the last two decades from $1.6 billion to $6.4 billion in 2016. For local legislators from Ohio and West Virginia, top campaign contributors have been investment firms, blue collar industries and unions, the oil and gas industry, high education institutions and retirees.
“The top industry isn’t really an industry at all, but individuals who list their occupation as retired in federal documents,”said Alex Lazar, with the Center for Responsive Politics. “While there are no companies in this faux-industry to lobby the federal government, the well-known advocacy group AARP has a strong Capitol Hill presence. AARP has more than 37 million members — all over the age of 50 — and is the largest advocacy group for retired people.”
In fact all six legislators representing the Mid-Ohio Valley constituents see retired individuals in their top 10 contributing industries.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has seen $4,070,100 from retirees fund his campaigns since 1991. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has seen $2,697,481 from that same demographic in the same time frame.
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, has been in office since 2009 and has seen $171,998 from retirees.
In West Virginia the same trend holds true with Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito seeing $1,111,123 from retirees, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin seeing $351,768 from retirees in his career and Republican Rep. David McKinley seeing $187,809 from the same group.
But top contributors for the different politicians then differ into the realms of finance, trades and big business.
“The funds go into building a grassroots campaign and telling the Joe Manchin story,” said Grant Herring, Manchin’s campaign communications director, noting a cash balance of $4.7 million coming into 2018. “The significant cash advantage is about building a campaign around the state and he’s got the support from Democrats and Republicans with 1,000 donations from individuals in West Virginia.”
Both Manchin and Johnson also have significant support coming from trades and energy including Dominion, American Electric Power and First Energy.
“I’m proud of the broad financial support my campaign has received – from individuals throughout Eastern and Southeastern Ohio and beyond, to major job creators and the unions that so often provide the labor,” said Johnson. “During my time serving in Congress, I have never had anyone come to me and tell me to vote a certain way for a contribution. And should that ever happen, I will ask them to leave my office.”
And while Brown’s contributions look to first come from higher education, officials at The Ohio State University clarified that the $279,905 in contributions would have come from individuals making donations of more than $200, since the institution is public and therefore does not make contributions to particular campaigns.
Similarly $139,621 has come from people who work for Case Western University.
“While it’s not to say he isn’t a strong supporter of public education, because he is,” said Preston Maddock, spokesperson for Brown’s campaign. “Drawing a line between top donations and the senator’s agenda would be incorrect.”
Brown also has seen $180,864 in his career from the League of Conservation Voters and $167,365 from individuals who work for Cleveland Clinic.
“His entire career I can’t speak to but for this current campaign, our average online contribution is $26,” added Maddock. “Our campaign is lucky to have (more than) 120,000 individual contributors.”
Portman has seen the most contributions both from individuals working in finance and their employers.
American Financial Group’s employees have donated $296,232 over his career, Proctor & Gamble has topped off $258,245 in individual donations with $20,000 in PAC donations. And Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Inc and JP Morgan Chase & Co are not far behind in both individual and PAC donations throughout Portman’s career.
Though Portman’s campaign team would not discuss what these funds are spent on, Emily Benavides, spokeswoman for Portman, reiterated that the senator’s votes are not impacted by campaign contributions.
“Rob’s priority is doing what’s right for the people of Ohio and that’s what guides his legislative decisions in Washington,” she said.
Capito’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Full summaries of campaign finances and industry contributors to legislators can be found at opensecrets.org.
Top 10 contributors and Industries
Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH:
¯ Contributors: American Financial Group, Proctor & Gamble, Votesane PAC, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, FMR Corp, Citigroup Inc, Squire Patton Boggs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Elliott Management.
¯ Industries: Retired, Securities & Investment, Lawyers/Law Firms, Insurance, Real Estate, Manufacturing and Distributing, Lobbyists, Finance, Leadership PACs, Health Professionals.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH:
¯ Contributors: The Ohio State University; League of Conservation Voters; Cleveland Clinic; JStreet PAC; Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz; Squire Patton Boggs; Communications Workers of America; Vorys, Sater et al; Case Western Reserve University; Forest City Enterprises.
¯ Industries: Lawyers/Law Firms, Health Professionals, Retired Individuals, Democratic/Liberal interest groups and party committees, Real Estate, Education, Securities & Investment, Lobbyists, Insurance, Leadership PACs.
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-OH:
¯ Contributors: Brilex Industries, Murray Energy, Magnum Magnetics, FirstEnergy Corp, American Electric Power, NiSource Inc, National Auto Dealers Association, National Mining Association, Compco Industries, Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
¯ Industries: Oil & Gas, Leadership PACs, Mining, Health Professionals, Manufacturing & Distributing, Electric Utilities, Insurance, Retired Individuals, Pharmaceuticals/Health Products, Automotive.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV:
¯ Contributors: First Energy Corp, Mylan Inc, Capital Group, Wexford Capital, NorPAC, Dominion Resources, American Electric Power, Mepco LLC, Centene Corp, Jackson Kelly Pllc.
¯ Industries: Lawyers/Law Firms, Mining, Leadership PACs, Electric Utilities, Securities & Investment, Retired, Oil & Gas, Real Estate, Lobbyists, Health Professionals.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV:
¯ Contributors: Powell Construction, Citigroup Inc, Sullivan & Cromwell, Goldman Sachs, Jackson Kelly Pllc, United Parcel Service, National Association of Home Builders, National Auto Dealers Association, National Beer Wholesalers Association.
¯ Industries: Leadership PACs, Retired Individuals, Lawyers/Law Firms, Health Professionals, Mining, Securities & Investment, Insurance, Commercial Banks, Real Estate, Oil & Gas.
Rep. David McKinley, R-WV:
¯ Contributors: Mepco LLC, Steptoe & Johnson, ARCH Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, Preston Contractors, CONSOL Energy, Patriot Coal Corp, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Carpenters & Joiners Union, Tuesday Group PAC.
¯ Industries: Mining, Health Professionals, Oil & Gas, Lawyers/Law Firms, Electric Utilities, Building Trade Unions, Transportation Unions, Retired Individuals, Special Trade Contractors, Leadership PACs.
Source:Center for Responsive Politics.