Meadville Tribune

Local News

May 6, 2014

Out-of-state money a focal point for Democrats in state governor race

HARRISBURG — Katie McGinty’s ties to the Clinton White House have not given her a bump in polls, but those connections have kept her campaign alive by providing the money needed to stay in the race.

A poll released last week by Muhlenberg College in Allentown shows former Secretary of Revenue Tom Wolf with a commanding lead. Thirty-eight percent polled said they intend to vote for Wolf. McGinty is last among the four contenders. Two percent of those polled said they plan to vote for McGinty, a former state Secretary of Environmental Protection.

With little in-state traction, McGinty is leaning on out-of-state donors to pay her campaign bills, finance reports show.

Wolf spent more than $5 million in the period ending March 31 and he still had $7 million left, finance records show.

McGinty’s campaign raised $1.1 million during the same reporting period. Of that, $467,000 came from donations of more than $250 from contributors who live outside Pennsylvania.

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz reported $1.5 million in donations for the reporting period, records show. Of that, about $350,000 came from donations in excess of $250 from individual out-of-state contributors. Schwartz also received $355,000 from Emily’s List, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee that is focused on getting pro-choice women elected to office.

Including PAC money, Treasurer Rob McCord reported just over $200,000 in out-of-state donations of more than $250.

Heavy dependence on out-of-state donations may bear watching, said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause of Pennsylvania.

Some election reformers have suggested that out-of-area donations should be limited or even eliminated.

“People supporting a candidate ought to have some skin in the game,” Kauffman said.

With many of the major unions and traditional party backers lining up behind McCord early, it was natural for Schwartz and McGinty to tap their national connections to compete, said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster.

“The reality is, there are just so many pockets you can dip into” for donations, said Chris Borick, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg.

In addition to having served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Environmental Protection, McGinty served in the Clinton White House and as an environmental advisor to former Vice President Al Gore.

The friendships and connections she forged in those years have helped her seed her campaign finances with support from donors across the country, said McGinty spokesman Mike Mikus.

Among McGinty’s biggest donations was $150,000 from California software tycoon Stephen Silberstein. McGinty got another $100,000 from California businessman Kenneth Coit.

Schwartz, on the other hand, has developed relationships nationally as a member of Congress.

“People are not buying influence; they are investing in Allyson’s agenda,” Schwartz spokesman Max Bergman said.

“There is national interest in the campaign,” Bergman said.

But Schwartz has also received substantial support from people in Pennsylvania. Her campaign has received donations from every county in the commonwealth, he said.

Some of the other candidates were able to give themselves head starts by transferring campaign funds from old war chests. McGinty didn’t have that option, Madonna said.

“Katie’s problem isn’t that she is getting out-of-state money, it’s that she doesn’t have enough of it,” Madonna said.

John Finnerty reports from the CNHI Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

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