Local campaign donations see shift
By Blaze Joel, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 21, 2012
The 03755 ZIP code, which comprises the entire Town of Hanover, has given almost $500,000 in campaign donations during the 2012 election cycle, a number that is on par with past presidential election years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The ratio of the donations, however, differs from previous cycles, Associate Director of Curricular Programs of the Rockefeller Center Ron Shaiko said. This year, 62 percent of all money raised has gone to the Democratic Party or its candidates and 38 percent has gone to the Republican Party or Republican politicians.
Because of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which overhauled the rules for campaign financing by declaring that corporations could donate unlimited amounts of money to political candidates, politicians and pundits often describe this November’s election as one that will likely see unprecedented campaign donations and spending. This ruling has not only changed large donations on a national scale, but has also had profound impacts on localities such as Hanover and Grafton County, according to Shaiko.
“It’s surprising it’s that close,” Shaiko said. “It’s normally four to one in terms of Democrats to Republicans.”
The top recipient of donations so far is the Republican National Committee, with over $90,000 in contributions, followed by President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, which received over $78,000. Republican presidential nominee former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., is fifth on the list with just over $19,000. Democratic New Hampshire candidate for the House of Representatives Ann McLane Kuster ’78 is fourth on the list with over $54,000, and her opponent, incumbent Charlie Bass ’74, R-N.H., is seventh with just under $10,000. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ’88, D-N.Y., who is running against Republican Wendy Long ’82, is sixth on the list with $10,000.
Sources interviewed by the Dartmouth cited numerous reasons for the increase in donations to the Republican Party this election season. Bruce Perlo, chair of the Grafton County Republican Committee, said that the increase is due to rising enthusiasm and a strong confidence in Romney among Republican voters.
“Everybody likes a winner,” he said. “There are a number of us who think Romney is going to win because of his background in business and government, and I think that that is a big reason he’s getting a lot of money.”
Shaiko and College Democrats President Mason Cole ’13 both said they believe that Hanover’s comparative wealth and greater political awareness has led to more substantial political contributions than the rest of the Upper Valley region.
“I can’t imagine another ZIP code in the Upper Valley giving that much,” Shaiko said. “Hanover has a more engaged population, but, on a day-to-day basis, is not an overly partisan town.”
When one takes a closer look at the donations, two distinct categories emerge. The distribution of money coming from people who donate less than $1,000 is similar to 2008, Shaiko said. Those donating large sums of money tend to favor Republican causes heavily, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Cole said that the impact of large donors and super PACs are damaging to democracy because they diminish the individual small donor’s role and can lead to a few people’s donations having a disproportionate impact on political races.
Perlo said, however, that the increase in donations to the Republican Party from the 03755 zip code can be attributed to the country’s political and economic climate.
“Obama has not done a good job with the economy overall, and his failings with foreign policy are becoming more apparent,” he said. “People may be believing it’s time for a change in president.”
He said that he believes that people are also starting to warm to the Republican message of fewer economic regulations and lower taxes as a way to generate a “favorable business environment.”
Shaiko and Cole both said that the influx of money on the Republican side will not likely impact the election results in Hanover. Democratic candidates have performed exceedingly well in the town of Hanover over a number of election cycles because of the generally liberal views of college students and faculty, according to Shaiko. Shaiko also said that Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center employees, by contrast, tend to hold more conservative views.
Cole said he believes that this presidential election will not come down to fundraising, but rather the ground game employed by each candidate.
While Cole said that he does not believe that the influx of private donations to Republican candidates from Hanover will impact the presidential race, it may have an effect on statewide races, such as the congressional election between Kuster and Bass.