Local GOP donations to Super PACs have some surprises

Posted: February 02, 2012

A politically connected Philadelphia law firm. A suburban label company owned by a large Republican family. An evangelical Christian philanthropist in Bryn Mawr.

The list of local donors who contributed to Republican "super PACs" late last year contains many veterans of past campaign fund-raising.

But where their cash is going includes a few surprises.

Consider: Canonsburg, Pa.-based Consol Energy gave $150,000 to the Restore Our Future fund, the group backing Mitt Romney, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission covering the last quarter of 2011.

An energy firm lining up behind a Republican front-runner wouldn't normally raise eyebrows - were it not for the relationship the coal-and-natural-gas production company has had over the years with another Republican in the race, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Consol paid Santorum nearly $143,000 over the last three years for his lobbying efforts in Washington. But when it comes to Santorum's presidential bid, the company has apparently tied its purse strings. As of the end of December, Consol had not given a dime to Santorum's campaign, nor to the Red, White and Blue Fund, the super PAC backing him.

Funds such as Restore Our Future and Red, White and Blue have attracted intense scrutiny during the 2012 campaign, not only for their high-dollar donations but for the barrage of negative advertising they have helped put on the airwaves for the Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida GOP contests.

So far, such groups have spent roughly $25 million on advertising - about half the nearly $53 million spent thus far on campaign TV spots.

The super PACs provide unusual cover, critics say, because they can accept unlimited amounts from individual donors and don't share the same reporting requirements on who is giving as the candidates' campaign funds.

One donor that chose the super PAC route was a Philadelphia law firm, Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg L.L.P. The firm contributed $25,000 to Restore Our Future, which supports Romney.

Lawyers in the Klehr firm were once among the most generous contributors to then-Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, a Democrat. Founding partner Leonard M. Klehr once served as Street's campaign-finance chairman.

The law firm's representatives did not return calls late Wednesday.

Also among the pro-Romney super PAC's donors: Jet Set Sports Holdings in Far Hills, N.J., which gave $100,000 in November. Company president Mark Lewis, who is on Romney's campaign-finance team, worked with the former Massachusetts governor when he headed up the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

In all, Restore Our Future - which raised $23.6 million nationally in the last quarter of 2011 - took in more locally than all other PACs supporting Republican candidates.

That's not to say the super PAC supporting Santorum was left scrounging for pennies in his backyard. The Red, White and Blue Fund reported a $10,000 donation from Montgomery County insurance broker Arnold M. Katz, and $250,000 from John M. Templeton Jr., an evangelical Christian and president of Templeton Foundation in Bryn Mawr - more than a third of the total the PAC raised nationally.

The Winning Our Future fund, which backs former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Endorse Liberty, which supports U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, reported no local donations. Nationally, the two funds raised $2.1 million and $1 million, respectively, in the last quarter of 2011.

Of course, that reporting period includes none of the January fund-raising frenzy that surrounded GOP contests in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida primaries.

On the Democratic side, where President Obama faces no challenger in the primaries, super PAC money-raising in the region was all but nonexistent in late 2011. The Obama-supporting Priorities USA Action fund listed one local donation - $1,000, from Wyncote attorney David Scranton.

But the president's local fund-raising "bundlers," who raise money from others, have been hard at work.

According to FEC filings, Obama supporters such as Comcast executive David L. Cohen, Ballard Spahr lawyer Kenneth Jarin, and Cozen O'Connor lawyer Mark L. Alderman have helped bring in a total exceeding $1 million.


Contact staff writer Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, jroebuck@phillynews.com, or @jeremyrroebuck on Twitter.

Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers John Duchneskie, Joelle Farrell, and Matt Katz.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|