(first of two parts)
By the end of last month, Americans across the nation had coughed up nearly $250 million--a quarter of a billion dollars-- from their pockets and turned it over to the campaign coffers of the seven Democratic candidates for president. (Howard Dean and Wesley Clark have since dropped out--if you want a refund, you're out of luck.)
Who are these average Joes and CEOs, who find an extra couple grand here and there for John Edwards, or hand over a cool $25K to the national Republican Senatorial Committee? If you follow politics in the Triangle, chances are you know some of the locals who are helping build up Dubya's war chest for re-election and fuel the Democrats' efforts at his ejection. Even if you don't, it's fun to peek into federal campaign reports and see who's writing the checks. This data comes from the Center for Responsive Politics, which formats reports from the Federal Elections Commission into a user-friendly database that you can spend hours exploring at www.opensecrets.org .
Let's start with the Triangle's Bush supporters. A remarkable number of them (or perhaps, not) head up companies. Federal laws set a max of $2,000 per individual donor, per candidate, for each election cycle. On Bush's money list, we find many Raleigh-area CEOs and company presidents who, with their spouses, gave the prez the max of $2,000 per person or $4,000 per couple. They are:
Moving out of Wake County over to Orange, one of the Triangle's most prolific givers (when it comes to Republicans, anyway) is Conrad Hock Jr. He and his wife kicked in $4,000 for Bush's campaign treasury. Hock heads Kansas-based Williams Foods, a specialty company that produces, among other lines, Jimmy Dean sausage and Hungry Jack pancakes. Hock, a Chapel Hill resident, has a long history of supporting conservative causes throughout the nation, including $50,000 to a California PAC opposing affirmative action in 1996 and steady checks in the $2,000- to $15,000-range to the Republican National Committee since 1999. (Yes, Virginia, there are conservatives in Chapel Hill!)
Across the county line in Durham, CEOs for Bush include retired Glaxo Wellcome chief Bob Ingram, and wife Jeannie, who gave him $4,000.
That's not to say that all of the Triangle folks giving money to our fearless leader head up companies. Some of them are developers-- Anthony Dilweg and partner Michel Hemmerich, $2,000 each, for example. And some of them are just your average politicians (former Raleigh City Councilman Kieran Shanahan, $2,000; current Raleigh Councilman Philip Isley, $2,000) and high-level executives (Montrose Capital chief financial officer Clay Hamner, $2,000).
The Triangle's health-care industry bigwigs seem to have a soft spot for Dubya and his party, as well. UNC Health Care System chief Bill Roper and his wife gave George W. Bush $4,000 last August, while Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina president Bob Greczyn gave the National Republican Senatorial Committee $2,500 the same month.
Overall, Bush had raised $1.9 million in the Tar Heel state as of Jan. 31. The Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point area proved to be the most fruitful by far; the president drew $816,000 from Triad donors. The Triangle was second among the major metro areas in Bush givers, with a total of $484,154.
(NEXT WEEK: Big money Democratic supporters, and PACs)